A European Commission health committee has released a new updated preliminary study on the health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Published by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), “Potential Health Effects of Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields” is an update to a 2009 study and aims to take into account technological developments that may have altered average EMF exposure levels, such as greater use of switched power supplies in electronic devices and the increase in household appliances in the intermediate frequency range that exceed reference levels set by previous guidelines.
The report is based on over five hundred studies, most of which were published after 2009, and covers radio frequency, intermediate frequency, terahertz frequency, low frequency and static magnetic field exposure.
Regarding RF exposure, the committee said, “epidemiological studies on RF exposure do not unequivocally indicate an increased risk of brain tumors, and do not indicate an increased risk for other cancers of the head and neck region, or other malignant diseases including childhood cancer.” There is also a lack of evidence regarding negative effects of RF radiation on human cognitive functions, reproduction and development.
Referencing earlier research on the potential for an increased risk of glioma and acoustic neuroma in frequent users of mobile phones, the committee added, “it appears that the evidence for glioma became weaker while the possibility of an association with acoustic neuroma remains open.”
Cell phones remain the most frequent source of human exposure to electromagnetic fields, says the committee, noting that smartphones and other portable wireless devices operate within networks of different technologies and have therefore complicated EMF exposure.
A proper risk assessment on health effects from IF exposure is still not possible at this time, according to the committee, as there are few new studies in general, and no epidemiological studies have been conducted. Risk assessment on the potential health effects from exposure to terahertz EMF is also limited due to the small number of studies carried out thus far.
More research is also needed into the health effects of low frequency electromagnetic fields, says the committee, noting “epidemiological studies are consistent with earlier findings of an increased risk of childhood leukemia with long-term average exposure to magnetic fields above 0.3 to 0.4 µT” but “due to a lack of support from experimental data and shortcomings in the epidemiological studies, evidence remains weak that the observed associated reflects a casual effect.” Some studies have indicated that exposure to ELF does not impact physical movement, but may affect the performance of spatial memory tasks and could raise behavioral anxiety and stress. These effects may be greater with higher intensity fields and with longer periods of exposure.
The committee notes that observational studies have shown that movement in strong static magnetic fields—about 2 T—may induce vertigo and nausea, and suggests further investigation regarding the effects of an MRI scan on DNA integrity is needed. Additional research is also needed on combined simultaneous exposure to EMF of different frequencies and co-exposure to EMF and chemicals or other stressors before any conclusions can be drawn.
A public consultation on the preliminary study will run until April 16, after which a comprehensive report will be released.