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We previously reported an association between childhood leukaemia in Britain and proximity of the child's address at birth to high-voltage power lines that declines from the 1960s to the 2000s. We test here whether a 'corona-ion hypothesis' could explain these results. This hypothesis proposes that corona ions, atmospheric ions produced by power lines and blown away from them by the wind, increase the retention of airborne pollutants in the airways when breathed in and hence cause disease. We develop an improved model for calculating exposure to corona ions, using data on winds from meteorological stations and considering the whole length of power line within 600 m of each subject's address. Corona-ion exposure is highly correlated with proximity to power lines, and hence the results parallel the elevations in leukaemia risk seen with distance analyses. But our model explains the observed pattern of leukaemia rates around power lines less well than straightforward distance measurements, and ecological considerations also argue against the hypothesis. This does not disprove the corona-ion hypothesis as the explanation for our previous results, but nor does it provide support for it, or, by extension, any other hypothesis dependent on wind direction.

Original publication




Journal article


J Radiol Prot

Publication Date





873 - 889


Body Burden, Child, Child, Preschool, Electricity, Electromagnetic Fields, Environmental Exposure, Female, Great Britain, Humans, Incidence, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Ions, Leukemia, Radiation-Induced, Male, Power Plants, Radiation Dosage, Radiometry, Risk Factors, Wind