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Do power lines affect pacemakers?
Liberty Co. man is worried but Ga. Transmission officials say its unlikely
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East-end Liberty County resident Otis Amason is concerned about the new high-voltage power lines being installed along Interstate 95 from the Tradeport East Industrial Park substation to the Burnt Church substation in Bryan County.
Amason, a Korean War veteran, reported that his pacemaker has, in the past, been “knocked out” by the high-voltage towers in Richmond Hill near the intersection of Highway 17 and Ford Avenue. He said his pacemaker also can be turned off by the metal detectors at the Liberty County Justice Center and the courthouse annex.
“I didn’t get to be 84 years old by being a fool,” said Amason, explaining why he takes I-95 to Richmond Hill, rather than U.S. 17. “I try to avoid things that are bad for me. When I got within 50 yards of those (power line towers) by the CVS and that other pharmacy (Walgreens) in Richmond Hill — bang. (My) pacemaker was off!”
Amason, who has had a pacemaker for 14 years, said doctors first had to remove 34 pieces of shrapnel from his body before Veteran Affairs physicians could install his first pacemaker, which lasted 12 years.
He is concerned the proximity of the new power lines to Highway 84 and I-95 may be enough to affect his pacemaker.
Jeannine Haynes, public affairs director for the Georgia Transmission Corporation, which soon will complete the power-line construction project, said the risk of negative effects from the magnetic fields created by high-voltage power lines is very small.
“The magnetic fields produced by power lines, appliances and anything electric drop off rapidly with distance,” Haynes said. “For this reason, you typically get more magnetic-field exposure from the wiring or appliances in your home, business or school than a power line.”
She said the new lines, which will run through the salt marshes up to 75 yards from the highway, are being installed because Coastal Electric Cooperative identified the need for a second high-voltage electric-transmission line. She said pacemakers rarely are affected by power lines and suggests Amason talk with his cardiologist.
According to the American medical network,, in 2005 the French conducted a clinical study in which 245 pacemaker patients were exposed to a high-level magnetic field and monitored for possible effects. Three of the 245 patients experienced problems with their pacemakers. The pacemaker of each of these patients was noted as being set in the “unipolar sensing configuration,” the study said.
Haynes said the French study is old and pointed out that it exposed patients to magnetic-field levels much higher than anyone would normally encounter. She reiterated that residents concerned that their pacemakers might be compromised by new or existing power lines need to consult their doctors or pacemaker manufacturers.
“We will be happy to take magnetic-field readings for Mr. Amason once the new line is energized,” Haynes said. “He should also share (his concerns) with his physician and the maker of the pacemaker. We would also be willing to meet with him and take readings around his home.”

Read more in the Sept. 11 edition of the News.

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