Identification and characterization of populations living near high-voltage transmission lines: A pilot study

D. Wartenberg, M. Greenberg, R. Lathrop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Populations living close to high-voltage transmission lines often have residential magnetic field exposures in excess of 1 μT, and sometimes over 2 μT. Yet, populations studied in most epidemiologic investigations of the association between residential magnetic field exposure and cancer typically have exposures below 1 μT and frequently below 0.5 μT. To improve statistical power and precision, it would be useful to compare high exposure populations with low exposure populations rather than only studying small differences within low exposure populations. Toward this end, we have developed an automated method for identifying populations living near high-voltage transmission lines. These populations likely have more highly exposed individuals than the population at large. The method uses a geographic information system (GIS) to superimpose digitized transmission line locations on U.S. Census block location data and then extract relevant demographic data. Analysis of data from a pilot study of the populations residing within 100 m of a 29-km segment of one 230-kV line in New Jersey shows that when compared to populations in the surrounding census blocks farther than 100m from this line, those populations close to the line have similar demographics but differ in terms of perceived housing value variables. We believe that the approach we have developed will enable investigators to rapidly identify and characterize populations living near high-voltage transmission lines on a statewide basis for considering the impact of exposures and for public policy and that these populations also can be used for epidemiologic study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-632
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Electromagnetic
  • Fields
  • Geographic information system
  • High-voltage transmission lines
  • Population identification


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