Electromagnetic Fields 2015 Update


Glossary over Electromagnetic Fields


The process of taking in. For a person or an animal, absorption is the process of a substance getting into the body through the eyes, skin, stomach, intestines, or lungs. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )


Acoustic Neuroma

A benign tumor of the auditory nerve, which can cause hearing loss and balance problems.

(Source: GreenFacts)

Alternating current & Direct current

Alternating Current (AC) is a type of electrical current, in which the direction of the flow of electrons switches back and forth at regular intervals or cycles. Current flowing in power lines and normal household electricity that comes from a wall outlet is alternating current. The standard current used in the U.S. is 60 cycles per second (i.e. a frequency of 60 Hz); in Europe and most other parts of the world it is 50 cycles per second (i.e. a frequency of 50 Hz.).

Direct current (DC) is electrical current which flows consistently in one direction. The current that flows in a flashlight or another appliance running on batteries is direct current.

One advantage of alternating current is that it is relatively cheap to change the voltage of the current. Furthermore, the inevitable loss of energy that occurs when current is carried over long distances is far smaller with alternating current than with direct current. (Source: GreenFacts)


Base station (in communications)

[A mobile phone base station is] a transmission and reception station in a fixed location, consisting of one or more receive/transmit antenna, microwave dish, and electronic circuitry, used to handle cellular traffic.

It serves as a bridge between all mobile users in a cell and connects mobile calls to the mobile switching center. (Source: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ; Data Collection - Telecommunications Glossary   )



The study of the chemical processes and compounds occurring in living organisms. (Source: American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Glossary  )

Blood-brain barrier

A protective barrier between brain blood vessels and brain tissues that allows blood to flow freely to the brain but prevents most substances in the bloodstream from reaching the brain cells.

It protects the brain from the effect of many harmful substances but makes it difficult to deliver drugs to the brain. (Source: GreenFacts)


Any one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and have the potential to spread and establish growth in nearby tissues and other parts of the body (malignancy). (Source: GreenFacts )


Cancer risk

A theoretical risk for getting cancer if exposed to a substance every day for 70 years (a lifetime exposure). The true risk might be lower. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )



A substance, factor or situation that causes or induces cancer. (Source: GreenFacts )


The basic subunit of any living organism; the simplest unit that can exist as an independent living system. There are many different types of cells in complex organisms such as humans, each with specific characteristics. (Source: GreenFacts)


Cell culture

The process of growing and maintaining cells under laboratory conditions, commonly on a glass surface immersed in nutrient fluid. (Source: GreenFacts)


An electric charge (q or Q) is the quantity of unbalanced electricity in an object (either positive or negative). It is interpreted as an excess or deficiency of electrons. Matter that possesses a charge is influenced by and produces electromagnetic fields.

Electrons, by convention have an elementary charge of -1. Ions are either positively or negatively charged. The unit of measurement of the charge of an object is the coulomb, which represents 6.24 x 1018 elementary charges. (Source: GreenFacts)

Circulatory system

The system that contains the heart and the blood vessels and moves blood throughout the body. This system helps tissues get enough oxygen and nutrients, and it helps them get rid of waste products. The lymph system, which connects with the blood system, is often considered part of the circulatory system. (Source: NCI Dictionary of cancer terms  )



Having to do with the ability to think and reason. This includes the ability to concentrate, remember things, process information, learn, speak, and understand. (Source: NCI dictionary  )

Cohort study

A type of epidemiological study which observes a large number of individuals in a population over a period of time.

It compares individuals who are exposed for instance to a certain chemical to others without the exposure or with a different level of exposure. These two groups are called cohorts and are followed over time to determine the differences in the health outcomes between the exposure subjects. (Source: GreenFacts)

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are energy-saving light bulbs, which last longer and use far less energy than traditional (or incandescent) light bulbs for the same level of light intensity. (Source: GreenFacts )


Confounding factor

A confounding factor in a study is a variable which is related to one or more of the variables defined in a study. A confounding factor may mask an actual association or falsely demonstrate an apparent association between the study variables where no real association between them exists. If confounding factors are not measured and considered, bias may result in the conclusion of the study. (Source: GreenFacts)

Controlled study

An experiment or clinical trial in which two groups are used for comparison purpose.


DG Health and Consumers

"The Health and Consumers DG (formally known as Health and Consumer Protection DG) is one of 36 Directorates-General (DGs) and specialised services which make up the European Commission."

The mission statement of the Health and Consumers DG is: "to promote a better quality of life by ensuring a high level of protection of consumers' health, safety and economic interests as well as of public health"

"This overall goal is addressed through legislative and non-legislative actions in three inter-related policy areas: 1. Consumer policy (...), 2. Public Health (...), 3. Food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health (...)". (Source: DG Health and Consumers website  )

Electric current

The electrical current is a physical phenomenon caused by the displacement of electrons or ions that induce electric fields. By convention, current is considered to be a flux of positive charges.

The intensity of the current is the quantity of charge which passes in a conductor per unit of time. The intensity of the current is measured in Amperes (A). (Source: Belgian BioElectroMagnetic Group Dictionary   )


Electric field

An electric field is an invisible force field created by the attraction and repulsion of electrical charges (the cause of electric flow), and is measured in Volts per meter (V/m).

The intensity of the electric field decreases with distance from the field source.

A static electric field (also referred to as electrostatic field) is an electric field that does not vary with time (frequency of 0 Hz). Static electric fields are created by electrical charges that are fixed in space. They are different from fields that change over time, such as electromagnetic fields generated by appliances using alternating current (AC) or by cell phones etc. (Source: GreenFacts )


Electric transformer

An electrical device used to raise or lower the voltage of alternating current. For instance, power is transported over long distances in high voltage power lines and then transformers lower the voltage so that the power can be used by household appliances. (Source: GreenFacts)

Electromagnetic fields (EMF)

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are a combination of invisible electric and magnetic fields of force. They occur both naturally and due to human activity. (Source: GreenFacts)


Electromagnetic hypersensitivity

Perceived hypersensitivity to exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) is described mainly by subjective symptoms (redness, tingling, burning, dryness of the skin) as well as by fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation, and digestive disturbances. It appears that hypersensitivity to electric and magnetic fields is an unclear health problem whose cause has yet to be determined. (Source: GreenFacts, based on WHO Electromagnetic fields and public health  )



A biological endpoint is a direct marker of disease progression - e.g. disease symptoms or death - used to describe a health effect (or a probability of that health effect) resulting from exposure to a chemical. (Source: GreenFacts)


Epidemiological studies

Studies on human populations, which attempt to link human health effects (e.g. cancer) to a cause (e.g. exposure to a specific chemical). (Source: GreenFacts)


European Commission

"The European Commission (EC) embodies and upholds the general interest of the [European] Union and is the driving force in the Union's institutional system. Its four main roles are to propose legislation to Parliament and the Council, to administer and implement Community policies, to enforce Community law (jointly with the Court of Justice) and to negotiate international agreements, mainly those relating to trade and cooperation."

The Commission's staff is organised into 36 Directorates-General (DGs) and specialised services, such as the Environment DG and the Research DG. (Source: EC website  )


One of the strongest forms of magnetism which is the basis for all permanent magnets.

Ferromagnetism refers to the phenomenon by which ferromagnetic metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt and certain alloys become magnetized in a magnetic field and retain their magnetism when the field is removed. (Source: GreenFacts)



The embryo is referred to as a foetus after it has reached a certain stage of organ development (in humans this is eight weeks after conception). (Source: CSIRO Glossary of terms  )


Frequency is the measurement of the number of times that a repeated event occurs per unit of time.

The frequency of wave-like patterns including sound, electromagnetic waves (such as radio or light), electrical signals, or other waves, expresses the number of cycles of the repetitive waveform per second.

In SI units, the result is measured in Hertz (Hz), named after the German physicist, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. 1 Hz means one cycle (or wave) per second.

Frequency has an inverse relationship to the concept of wavelength (the distance between two peeks) such that the frequency is equal to the velocity divided by the wavelength. (Source: GreenFacts)


Genetic material

Any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin that carries genetic information and that passes it from one generation to the next.

The information contained controls reproduction, development, behaviour, etc. (Source: GreenFacts )



Toxic (damaging) to DNA. Substances that are genotoxic may bind directly to DNA or act indirectly leading to DNA damage by affecting enzymes involved in DNA replication, thereby causing mutations which may or may not lead to cancer or birth defects (inheritable damage). Genotoxic substances are not necessarily carcinogenic. (Source: GreenFacts)


A protein found in the red blood cells [of most vertebrates] that is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. Haemoglobin picks up the oxygen in the lungs, and then releases it in the muscles and other tissues where it is needed. Haemoglobin also contains iron which is critical for it to work properly. (Source: Janssen-Cilag UK Ltd ; Ortho Biotech GLOSSARY  )

In vitro

In an artificial environment outside a living organism or body. For example, some toxicity testing is done on cell cultures or slices of tissue grown in the laboratory, rather than on a living animal. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )

In vivo

Within a living organism or body. For example, some toxicity testing is done on whole animals, such as rats or mice. (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )


Leukaemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow, which makes blood cells (red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, white blood cells that fight disease and infection, platelets that help to stop bleeding when it starts).

In people with leukaemia, the bone marrow produces large numbers of abnormal white blood cells and not enough normal red blood cells.

Leukaemia cases represent less than 4% of all cancer cases in adults but are the most common form of cancer in children.

There are different types of leukaemia (e.g. acute, chornic, myeloid and lymphoid leukaemia). (Source: GreenFacts )

Magnetic field

A magnetic field is an invisible force field created by a magnet or as a consequence of the movement of electric charges (flow of electricity).

The magnitude (intensity) of a magnetic field is usually measured Tesla (T or in mT), but it can also be measured in Gauss (G).

The intensity of the field decreases with distance from the field source. (Source: GreenFacts)


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A technique that uses a strong circular magnet in combination with pulses of radio waves to produce detailed images of internal organs. MRI is especially useful for imaging spine, joints, and inside bones and also soft tissue such as the brain.

Physicians can use MRI to see for instance the difference between normal and diseased brain tissue or which parts of the brain are active when you perform certain tasks or feel certain emotions and sensations.

MRI is one of several Nuclear Magnetic Resonance techniques. (Source: GreenFacts, based on Institute of Physics Inside story: MRI scans   )



A class of physical phenomena that include being able to attract iron.

Magnetism is associated with moving electricity, is exhibited by both magnets and electric currents, and involves force ["magnetic"] fields. (Source: Glossary  )



Cancerous. Progressive and uncontrolled growth. Malignant neoplasms or tumours can invade and destroy other tissues and spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or lymphatics (metastasis). (Source: GreenFacts )


A statistical method of combining the results of a number of different studies in order to provide a larger sample size for evaluation and to produce a stronger conclusion than can be provided by any single study. (Source: GreenFacts)



A molecule is the smallest part of any chemical compound composed of two or more atoms and which has the qualities of that substance and can exist alone in a free state. As an example, a molecule of water (H2O) consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. (Source: GreenFacts, based on Helios Glossary   )

Nervous system

The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates body activities.

It is made up of:

  • the central nervous system, consisting of the brain and spinal cord, and
  • the peripheral nervous system which includes, the eyes, the ears, the sensory organs of taste and smell, as well as the sensory receptors located in the skin, joints, muscles, and other parts of the body.
Neurological effects

Effects to nervous system especially regarding structure, functions, and abnormalities. (Source: GreenFacts)


A small battery-operated electronic device that is surgically implanted under the skin and joined to the heart by wires, and that measures the pulse and corrects too fast or too slow heart rhythms. (Source: GreenFacts)



Study of the biological, chemical and physical activities and processes that underlie the functioning of living organisms (cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems) and their parts. (Source: GreenFacts)


An inactive substance or treatment that looks the same as, and is given the same way as, an active drug or treatment being tested. The effects of the active drug or treatment are compared to the effects of the placebo. (Source: NCI dictionary  )


A group or number of people living within a specified area or sharing similar characteristics (such as occupation or age). (Source: ATSDR Glossary of Terms  )


Pregnancy outcomes

Results of conception and ensuing pregnancy, such as sex ratio, birth weight, spontaneous abortion, congenital malformations, lower birth weight, preterm delivery or stillbirth. (Source: GreenFacts)


Energy moving in the form of particles or waves. Familiar radiations are heat, light, radio waves, and microwaves. Ionizing radiation is a very high-energy form of electromagnetic radiation. (Source: US Center for Disease Control and Prevention Glossary of Radiological Terms   )


Risk assessment

A scientifically based process consisting of four steps:

  • hazard identification,
  • hazard characterization,
  • exposure assessment and
  • risk characterization
(Source:   Official Journal of the European Communities 2002 L 31 )


Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks

The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) was set up in 2004 by the European Commission to provide the Commission with unambiguous scientific advice on the safety of a series of issues requiring a comprehensive assessment of the risks, such as new technologies, medical devices, etc.

The SCENIHR advice is intended to enable risk managers to take the adequate and required actions in order to guarantee consumer safety or public health.

The SCENIHR addresses questions concerning emerging or newly-identified risks and on broad, complex or multi-disciplinary issues requiring a comprehensive assessment of risks to consumer safety or public health and related issues not covered by other Community risk- assessment bodies.

The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks is composed of a maximum of 13 members, but for any specific question may enlist the support of up to six associated members selected on the basis of their expertise. There is also a reserve list made up of candidates found suitable for a position in a Scientific Committee but not appointed. The members of the SCENIHR are appointed on the basis of their skills and experience in the fields in question, and consistent with this a geographical distribution that reflects the diversity of scientific problems and approaches in the European Union (EU). The experts' term of office is three years and is renewable for a maximum of three consecutive times. In agreement with the Commission, the Scientific Committees may turn to specialised external experts.

The SCENIHR complies with the principles of independence, transparency and confidentiality. The members therefore make a declaration of commitment to act in the public interest and a declaration of interests; requests for opinions, agendas, minutes and opinions are published; work and publications are done with regard to the need for commercial confidentiality. (Source: SCENIHR pages  )

Tesla (T) - Magnetic Field Intensity Unit

The International System unit of field intensity for magnetic fields is Tesla (T). One tesla (1 T) is defined as the field intensity generating one newton (N) of force per ampere (A) of current per meter of conductor:

T = N × A-1 × m-1 = kg × s-2 × A-1

Certain other non-SI units, like Gauss (G), are still occasionally used.

A magnetic field of one tesla is quite strong. That is why magnetic fields are usually expressed in microtesla (µT). Typical values of field intensity for some magnetic fields are: S

Field µT
Strongest fields available in laboratories 20 000 000
Earth's magnetic field intensity, at its surface 50
Domestic electrical appliances 0.02 to 7
Interstellar magnetic field 0.000 000 3

(Source: based on International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM)   )

The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection

The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) is an advisory body, established in 1969, that advises the United Nations (UN) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.

At present GESAMP is jointly sponsored by nine UN organizations with responsibilities relating to the marine environment, and they utilize GESAMP as a mechanism for coordination and collaboration among them. GESAMP functions are to conduct and support marine environmental assessments, to undertake in-depth studies, analyses, and reviews of specific topics, and to identify emerging issues regarding the state of the marine environment. GESAMP itself today consists of 16 experts, drawn from a wide range of relevant disciplines, who act in an independent and individual capacity. Studies and assessments are usually carried out by dedicated working groups, most of whose members are not sitting members of GESAMP but part of the broader GESAMP network.


Source: (Source:  )


An abnormal mass of tissue resulting from uncontrolled and excessive cell division.

Tumours can be either benign (localised, without the invasion of other tissues) or malignant (showing progressive invasion of other tissues). (Source: GreenFacts)


A dizzying sensation of the environment spinning, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. (Source: National Multiple Sclerosis Society Glossary of MS terms )


The difference in electrical charge between two points in a circuit expressed in volts which makes electrical charges flow through a closed circuit. (Source: GreenFacts)


Vulnerability (in ecosystems)

Exposure to contingencies and stress, and the difficulty in coping with them. (Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment  Glossary )


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