Electromagnetic Fields 2015 Update
10. Conclusions on health effects of electromagnetic fields
- 10.1 Conclusions on Radio Frequency (RF) fields
- 10.2 Conclusions on Intermediate Frequency (IF) fields
- 10.3 Conclusions on Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) fields
- 10.4 Conclusions on static magnetic fields
- 10.5 Conclusions on combined exposure of EMFs and co-exposure to environmental stressor
- 10.6 Research recommendations
10.1 Conclusions on Radio Frequency (RF) fields
Radio frequency fields (100 kHz - 300 GHz) are generated from
a large variety of sources such as by broadcasting, mobile
telephony and wireless networks.
Overall, the epidemiological
studies on RF EMF exposure do not show an increased
risk of brain tumours.
Furthermore, they do not indicate an increased risk for other
cancers of the head
and neck region. Some studies raised questions regarding an
increased risk of glioma and
acoustic neuroma in
heavy users of mobile phones. The results of cohort and
incidence time trend studies do not support an increased risk
for glioma. The possibility of an association with acoustic
neuroma remains open.
do not indicate increased risk for other cancers including
A large number of
studies have been published since the last Opinion. In
most of the studies, no effects,
genotoxic as well as
non-genotoxic, were recorded at levels of exposure below
exposure limits. Previous studies suggesting that RF exposure
may affect brain activities as reflected by changes in the EEG
during wake and sleep are confirmed by results of more recent
studies. However, given the variety of applied fields, duration
of exposure, number of considered leads, and statistical methods
it is difficult to derive firm conclusions. Studies on
in humans lack consistency. The biological relevance of reported
small physiological EEG
changes remains unclear and a mechanistic explanation is still
A reasonable body of experimental evidence now suggests that
exposure to RF does not trigger the self-reported symptoms that
are known as “Electromagnetic
hypersensitivity”, at least in the short-term. While
additional observational studies are required to assess whether
longer-term exposure could be associated with symptoms, the
evidence to date weighs against a causal effect.
Human studies on
neurological diseases and
symptoms show no or no consistent effects.
10.2 Conclusions on Intermediate Frequency (IF) fields
Intermediate frequency (IF) fields (300 Hz – 100 kHz) are
generated by sources like computers, induction hotplates,
lamps and anti-theft devices. Exposure to IF fields at
the work place is in some cases considerably higher than
exposure to the general public. However, very little research on
IF fields and health risks in occupational settings or for the
general public has been published and the data are still too
limited for an appropriate risk
In view of the increasing exposure to IF fields at the work
place, for instance in shops and certain industries, it is
important that research in this area is given priority.
10.3 Conclusions on Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) fields
Extremely low frequency fields (ELF) (below 300 kHz) are
generated by sources like power lines, and electric appliances.
Studies investigating possible effects of ELF
magnetic fields (ELF MF)
exposure on the brain activity of volunteers are too
heterogeneous with regard to applied fields, duration of
exposure, number of considered leads, and statistical methods to
draw any sound conclusion. The same applies for the results
concerning behavioural outcomes and cortical
The new epidemiological
studies are consistent with earlier findings of an
increased risk of childhood
estimated daily average exposures above 0.3 to 0.4 µT. As stated
in the previous Opinions, no mechanisms have been identified in
the meanwhile and no support exists from experimental studies
that could explain these findings, which, together with
shortcomings of the
prevent a causal interpretation.
Only a few new epidemiological
studies on neurodegenerative diseases have been
published since the previous Opinion was adopted. They do not
provide support for the previous conclusion that ELF
exposure could increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease or any
other neurodegenerative diseases or dementia.
10.4 Conclusions on static magnetic fields
Static magnetic fields are
generated by sources such as
permanent magnets and
those using direct electric currents.
Taken together, the new findings reported do not challenge
previous risk assessment
of static MF exposure which was made in the previous Opinion.
Globally, there is no consistent evidence for lasting adverse
health effects from short term exposure up to several
10.5 Conclusions on combined exposure of EMFs and co-exposure to environmental stressor
The few available studies on combined
exposure to different EMFs do not provide sufficient
evidence for risk
The Opinion of 2009 concluded that there was some evidence
studies to suggest that co-exposure with
ELF fields may act as a
there was no evidence that RF fields could act in a similar way.
The results reported since then indicate that co-exposure to ELF
or RF with several chemical or physical agents can indeed result
in either an increase or a decrease in their effect, but due to
the small number of available investigations and the large
variety of protocols adopted, it is not possible to assess these
risks at present.
10.6 Research recommendations
A set of prioritised research recommendations and
methodological guidance on the experimental design and minimum
requirements to ensure data quality and usability for
are provided in chapters 3.14 and 3.15 of the Opinion.