Government asks business, academia to find way to cut power line radiation

Environment ministry one of first to use new national challenges portal to reach out for solutions to complex problems

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Power lines next to Moshav Bnei Re'em in central Israel, April 26, 2010. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90/ File)
Power lines next to Moshav Bnei Re'em in central Israel, April 26, 2010. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90/ File)

The Environmental Protection Ministry announced Monday that it would use a newly created national challenges website to ask businesses and academia to help find ways to reduce non-ionizing radiation from high-voltage overhead power lines, whose health effects remain unclear.

Scientists have been divided over whether these lines, which create electromagnetic fields (where electric and magnetic fields combine) can cause cancer and other health problems.

According to the World Health Organization, any health effects from low-level electromagnetic fields are likely to be small. Indeed, it says, people are surrounded by electromagnetic fields generated by fridges, TVs, and many of the other electrical appliances that are commonly found in homes.

The ministry’s call for tech help is one of the first to appear on the government’s new challenges site, which is based on similar sites elsewhere in the world, for example, in the US.

Israel’s model, a pilot, will seek solutions to complex issues faced by various ministries.

It has been developed by the Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry, together with the procurement unit in the Accountant General’s Department of the Finance Ministry.

According to a press release, the Environmental Protection Ministry is interested in “locating problem areas where the radiation may harm public health” and finding ways to reduce it.

Science Ministry Director General Hilla Haddad Hamelnik, who is leading the government’s national challenge project. (Rami Zarnegar)

Other initial challenges on the site include increasing physical protection for boys and girls in sports, in collaboration with the Culture and Sports Ministry, and finding technological tools to help teachers provide feedback for writing and speaking in the English language, in partnership with the Education Ministry.

The Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry will award grants totaling NIS 150,000 ($44,000) for proposals selected for demonstration.

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