Twenty-four hours a day people are exposed to an array of electromagnetic fields. Inside the home TVs, stereos, VCRs, computers, almost everything electric, most machines and lights bathe everyone with waves, and the list goes on and on.
Outside radar, communication dishes, TV transmitters, cellular phones, high-tension power lines and even the electromagnetic fields generated by vehicles create additional waves.
Unless one lives in some remote corner of the planet, there is no escape. Simply put, growing exposure to electromagnetic energy fields is a concern, and some see it as a serious threat to health.
No one really knows for sure the long-term effects of this exposure. There are two basic kinds of harmful fields: electromagnetic and voltaic.
The electromagnetic spectrum covers a wide range of wave lengths. The motion of electrically charged particles produces the electromagnetic waves. These waves are also called “electromagnetic radiation” because they radiate from the electrically charged particles. The voltaic is the process reaction that produces electricity.
The two most obvious sources of these waves and the ones most people are familiar with are high-tension power lines and cellular phone towers.
The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known in Costa Rica as ICE, is expropriating property from Panamá to Nicaragua to put in an incredible power grid called SIEPAC.
SIEPAC is the Spanish acronym for the Electricity Interconnection System for the Central American Countries that involve the construction of a 1,830-kilometer (1,135-mile), 230 kV energy distribution line between southern Mexico and Panamá.
Many groups have tried to fight ICE to stop the lines going through towns, strung above and around schools, churches, hospitals and community centers.
The people of Liberia, Costa Rica, filed a case against the electric company and the municipality of Liberia in the Sala IV in 1997 requesting ICE to move the lines around population centers. The people lost in a split vote by the magistrates of the constitutional court.
The decision stated there is no definitive proof electromagnetic fields cause health problems even though there are tons of studies linking these fields to cancer and other problems. The constitutional court said they could not stop progress without proof electric lines cause health problems.
A cattle rancher disagrees. He does not want the electric lines going through his property because he feels they will adversely affect his cattle production. It is interesting to note that when he received the expropriation documents for the stretch of land the electric company needed, ICE specifically stated nothing flammable should be placed close to the lines because it would be likely to explode.
Three weeks ago, the rancher filed another case against the electric company and the stringing of lines through his property. However, his case has a new twist.
The Costa Rica constitution guarantees basic rights to all individuals. Article 46 guarantees everyone a safe environment. Most importantly, it guarantees this right to generations of the future. Since the electric company and court cannot guarantee that electromagnetic fields do not cause health problems, it is the courts responsibility to direct ICE to explain to the people of Costa Rica this fact and what potential problems could be in the future and give the people the option to find ways to protect themselves. In other words, the burden is not on ICE.
The case was accepted by the court based on this premise called the precautionary principle. This principle recommends that action should be taken to prevent serious potential harm, regardless of scientific uncertainty as the likelihood or cause of that harm.
It is unclear whether the people of Costa Rica really care or not. Phone calls to the local media regarding the case being accepted were ignored.
Is progress more important than the health of people? It seems as if the Sala IV thinks so based on the 1997 vote. Accepting this new case means the magistrates may have changed their opinion, and believe people should be aware of potential health risks in the future so they can take adequate steps to protect themselves against the unknown.
Under Costa Rican law anyone can attach him or herself to the case at any time before a final decison. This is case 06-011840-0007CO.