What are electromagnetic fields?
An electromagnetic field (EMF) is a
physical field produced by stationary, spinning or moving electrically charged
particles. EMF is not a recent phenomenon of our cell phone and computer
culture: electric and magnetic fields exist
in nature. Although they are invisible, you can see proof of their existence in
a bolt of lightning and the spinning of a compass needle. EMF is also a
by-product of electric devices and new technologies. It is the omnipresence of
these new technologies (including laptops, cell phones, induction cooktops and
Wi-Fi) that has raised concerns about how EMF exposure might impact our
Are there different types of EMF?
The term EMF generally refers to electromagnetic frequencies lower than that
of visible light, which are the focus of
this fact sheet. The entire electromagnetic
spectrum, however, ranges from extremely low frequencies (like
electric power) to higher frequencies (like microwaves, optical frequencies and,
even higher, x-rays). The frequency is related to the
wavelength: the shorter the
wavelength, the higher the frequency.
Is EMF exposure dangerous for your health?
The results of current scientific research show that there are no evident
adverse health effects if exposure remains below the levels set by current
Some studies suggested an association of EMF produced by mobile phones with an
increased risk of cancer of the auditory
vestibular (acoustic) nerve and of brain
tumours. However, other studies did not
confirm this association and one finding in particular suggests precaution on
the interpretation of this association: the rates of incidence of the
corresponding tumours have not increased since the introduction of cell phones.
Previous studies also suggested an association of EMF with an increased risk
of Alzheimer’s disease. New studies on that subject did not confirm this link.
Epidemiological studies link exposure to Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) fields,
from long-term living in close proximity to power lines for example, to a higher
rate of childhood leukaemia, which is a
rare blood cancer. This correlation has
neither been explained nor supported by animal and
cellular studies. So far, research
findings were not able to find a possible mechanism to explain this association.
More research is needed to confirm or exclude a possible causal
Can some people be especially sensitive to EMF?
Some people attribute symptoms such as headache, sleep disturbance and fatigue
to EMF exposure. While their health concerns are valid, there is for the moment
no conclusive scientific evidence that any of their symptoms are caused by
exposure to EMF.
Is exposure to EMF continually increasing?
Not necessarily. While the number of sources is increasing, new telephones,
appliances and other EMF sources can emit much lower levels of EMFs than earlier
models. This could mean that the amount of exposure could actually be
decreasing. However, it is evident that overall exposure depends on one’s
lifestyle and location.
What is the Scientific Committees' view in summary?
The Scientific Committees do not conduct scientific research, but review all
relevant scientific data, carrying out metadata analyses to put forth an opinion
on various topics pertaining to public health. Thorough examination of all
pertinent, recent data has not produced any conclusive evidence about EMF being
dangerous, which is reassuring. However, further research should be conducted,
particularly as pertains to very long-term exposure and potential risks of
exposure to multiple sources.
This fact sheet is based on the opinion of the independent Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR): «Potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF)». March, 2015
This opinion is available at:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_ committees/emerging/opinions/ index_en.htm