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Brain Cancer Victim Sues Utility, Citing Electromagnetic Fields

January 7, 1992

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A woman diagnosed with brain cancer after growing up across the street from a power substation sued a utility Monday, charging it failed to warn residents about the dangers of electromagnetic fields.

The neighborhood gained widespread attention in 1990 when an article in The New Yorker magazine chronicled a cluster of cancers there and linked it to electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, from the substation. EMFs are invisible forces emitted by power lines, appliances and other electric devices.

Melissa Bullock, 19, was diagnosed in 1989 with an advanced and often fatal form of brain cancer. Her family has lived across the street from a power substation owned by Connecticut Light & Power, a Northeast Utilities subsidiary, since 1979.

The teen-ager’s bedroom was directly underneath a power line from the substation, said her mother, Suzanne Bullock.

″I’m very angry,″ Mrs. Bullock said. ″I look up at these wires and I say, ‘Who’s it going to get next?’ It’s not fair.″

The Bullocks seek unspecified damages for Ms. Bullock’s condition, her mother’s emotional distress and the lost value of their home.

Northeast Utilities spokesman Emmanuel Forde denied charges in the lawsuit. ″There is no radiation coming from these lines,″ he said. ″It’s a term that appears to be used more for its scare value than for its basis in science.″

Forde also said, however, that the utility is concerned about any possible link between health problems and electromagnetism and said the utility industry is spending millions to research the issue.

″There are no definite answers at this time,″ he said. ″We recognize that our customers have expressed concern. ... If our customers are concerned, we’re concerned.″

Last year a preliminary Environmental Protection Agency report cited evidence of a link between household EMFs and brain cancer and leukemia in children.

But state epidemiologists said data in Connecticut Tumor Registry shows no evidence that an environmental factor caused illness in the neighborhood.

Trial Lawyers Public Justice, a national public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C., filed the lawsuit on the Bullocks’ behalf in New Haven Superior Court.

Ms. Bullock, who has had radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery, is now in remission, said Michael Koskoff, her attorney. She wouldn’t talk with reporters.

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