Pride, prejudice and pylons
Sir Richard Doll's exhaustive study has now finally confirmed that, in the UK at least, there is no causal link between electricity pylons and childhood cancers – discrediting the scares published in every newspaper on Thursday, December 02. (BBC, Guardian). Reason would now suggest that we start devoting time and research resources to looking for other possible causes, and treatments.
The problem is that the issue is no longer one of reason, or science, or even concern for children with cancer, but of vested interests. The scientists whose findings were reported yesterday have staked their reputations (and prospects of future research funding) on the notion that pylons are a cancer risk, and will not lightly give up their cause, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We can expect to hear repeated attempts to show that the Doll study is not 'definitive' – indeed, some were trying to make this pre-emptive claim on Thursday, before the Doll findings were published – and yet more resources devoted to research and publications on pylons, which could have been used to find real causes and possible cures. When pride, prejudices and careers are at stake, dying children can wait.