This has been on peoples' minds for decades and the answer is still not clear.
TL;DR at the bottom.
Research done in the past has not always been of the best quality and so conclusions that might have been made which suggest harm, are probably wrong. For example: a UK study in 2005 suggested increased rates of cancer in association with distance from power-lines (closer = worse) BUT the association continued even further than the distance the power lines could have any effect. That means that the suspicion that it could be the electromagnetics of the power line can't be related, because even after it dropped off there was still something apparently going on.
Title: Do power line - generated electromagnetic fields have any
association with certain disorders? Source: JAMA: Journal of the
American Medical Association [0098-7484] Ross, Randy yr:1988 vol:259
iss:8 pg:1131 SINCE THE MID-1960s, scientists have debated whether
low-level electromagnetic fields generated by power lines represent a
health hazard. Recent studies suggesting possible links between
electromagnetic exposure and cancer have drawn renewed attention to
For years, researchers have hypothesized links between electromagnetic
fields and a variety of disorders ranging from malignant melanoma to
mental illness. British investigators have suggested a link between
electromagnetic exposure and suicide, while a Russian study indicated
cardiovascular changes in electrical workers.
At least one literature review, by a London utility company scientist,
discounted these and other associations (JR Soc Med 1982;75:933-941).
But epidemiologic and other studies have continued.
A study looking at some particularly rapidly developing cells taken from mice in China in 2015 suggested that the cells might not live as long, but no signs of cancer. This was in MICE, not humans, and in cells taken from the body and therefore not around their normal external defence and healing mechanisms. What that means is that this study is of uncertain value.
Title: Effects of Long-Term 50Hz Power-Line Frequency Electromagnetic
Field on Cell Behavior in Balb/c 3T3 Cells Source: PLoS ONE
[1932-6203] An, Guang-Zhou yr:2015 vol:10 iss:2 pg:e0117672 -e0117672
Abstract Power-line frequency electromagnetic field (PF-EMF) was
reported as a human carcinogen by some epidemiological research, but
the conclusion is lack of robust experiment evidence. To identify the
effects of long-term PF-EMF exposure on cell behavior, Balb/c 3T3
cells in exponential growth phase were exposed or sham-exposed to 50
Hertz (Hz) PF-EMF at 2.3 mT for 2 hours (h) one day, 5 days every
week. After 11 weeks exposure, cells were collected instantly. Cell
morphology was observed under invert microscope and Giemsa staining,
cell viability was detected by 3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,
5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay, cell cycle and apoptosis
was examined by flow cytometry, the protein level of Proliferating
Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) and CyclinD1 was detected by western blot,
cell transformation was examined by soft agar clone assay and plate
clone forming test, and cell migration ability was observed by scratch
adhesion test. It was found that after PF-EMF exposure, cell
morphology, apoptosis, cell migration ability and cell transformation
didn’t change. However, compared with sham group, cell viability
obviously decreased and cell cycle distribution also changed after 11
weeks PF-EMF exposure. Meanwhile, the protein level of PCNA and
CyclinD1 significantly decreased after PF-EMF exposure. These data
suggested that although long-term 50Hz PF-EMF exposure under this
experimental condition had no effects on apoptosis, cell migration
ability and cell transformation, it could affect cell proliferation
and cell cycle by down-regulation the expression of PCNA and CyclinD1
A recent study (2014) in Denmark looking at actual humans (specifically whether kids developed leukaemia closer to power lines) found no association between distance from power lines and rates of developing cancer - and this was from much stronger power lines than the street-based ones you're talking about.
This one is a significant paper for 3 reasons: 1) it looked at actual people. 2) children are in theory MORE susceptible to radiation-based tumours (ie EM radiation) and 3) leukaemia is a typical type of cancer seen in response to radiation.
Title: Distance from residence to power line and risk of childhood
leukemia: a population-based case–control study in Denmark Source:
Cancer causes and control : An International Journal of Studies of
Cancer in Human Populations [0957-5243] Pedersen yr:2014 vol:25 iss:2
Purpose Epidemiological studies have found an
association between exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic
fields (ELF-MF) and childhood leukemia. In 2005, a large British study
showed an association between proximity of residence to high-voltage
power lines and the risk of childhood leukemia. The association
extended beyond distances at which the ‘power line’-induced magnetic
fields exceed background levels, suggesting that the association was
not explained by the magnetic field, but might be due to chance, bias,
or other risk factors associated with proximity to power lines. Our
aim was to conduct a comparable study in an independent setting
Methods We included 1,698 cases aged <15, diagnosed with leukemia
during 1968–2006, from the Danish Cancer Registry and 3,396 controls
randomly selected from the Danish childhood population and
individually matched by gender and year of birth. We used geographical
information systems to determine the distance between residence at
birth and the nearest 132–400 kV overhead power line.
Results Odds ratios (ORs) were 0.76 [95 % confidence interval (CI)
0.40–1.45] for children who lived 0–199 m from the nearest power line and 0.92 (95 % CI 0.67–1.25) for those who lived 200–599 m away when
compared with children who lived ≥600 m away. When restricting the
analysis to 220 and 400 kV overhead power lines, the OR for children
who lived 200–599 m from a power line was 1.76 (95 % CI 0.82–3.77)
compared to children who lived ≥600 m away. However, chance is a
likely explanation for this finding as the result was not significant,
numbers were small, and there were no indications of an higher risk
closer to the lines since no cases were observed within 200 m of
Conclusions We found no higher risk of leukemia for children living
0–199 m or for children living 200–599 m of a 132–400 kV overhead
power line. A slightly elevated OR for children living between 200 and
599 m of a 220–400 kV overhead power line is likely to be a chance
So... what does that mean when it comes to living close to power lines?
- prior thought has been that it's bad, but this has been with shonky research.
- Chinese mice cells taken from the body don't show signs of cancer, but maybe don't last as long
- actual humans (children in Denmark) don't seem to show any signs of developing leukaemia
- public opinion is still divided, even though the research seems to be pretty sound.
Getting the apartment isn't any risk (cancer-wise) to yourself. You might find it harder to get rid of if anyone else feels the same trepidation you do!