Governmental/scientific reviews
of the potential health effects of power-frequency EMFs

The following is a summary of recent EMF health assessments that have received global attention and the websites on which the full information can be found.

World Health Organization, 2007

Extremely Low Frequency Fields Environmental Health Criteria Monograph No. 238 (July 2007): For diseases and health concerns other than cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that the evidence either did not support an association between health impacts and ELF exposure or the evidence was inadequate. With respect to cancer, the WHO monograph focused on literature published since the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of ELF magnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans“ in 2002 (no. 80). (The IARC classification is based primarily on their findings that “There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields in relation to childhood leukaemia.” but, as well ”There is inadequate evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields.)

View “Extremely Low Frequency Fields Environmental Health Criteria Monograph No. 238”.

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The Federal-Provincial-Territorial Radiation Protection Committee (FPTRPC), 2005

Organized under Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau, the FPTRPC issued a Position Statement in January 2005 stating that adverse health effects from exposure to power frequency EMFs at levels normally encountered in homes, schools and offices have not been established.

“…FPTRPC is of opinion that moderate measures and the participation in the process of acquiring new knowledge are sufficient. These types of activity are consistent with the Canadian government framework on precaution.”

View the FPTRPC’s position statements on EMF and health effects.

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Health Canada, 2004

“It’s Your Health” fact sheet on EMF states: Research has shown that EMFs from electrical devices and power lines can induce weak electric currents to flow through the human body. However, these currents are much smaller than those produced naturally by your brain, nerves and heart, and are not associated with any known health risks.

There have been many studies about the effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields at extremely low frequencies. Scientists at Health Canada are aware that some studies have suggested a possible link between exposure to ELF fields and certain types of childhood cancer. However, when all of the studies are evaluated, the evidence appears to be very weak.

View “Electric and Magnetic Fields at Extremely Low Frequencies” by the Government of Canada Environmental Health.

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Manitoba Clean Environment Commission, 2001

The Commission states “The research to date has not confirmed any biophysical mechanisms that would link properties of power and frequency fields to the initiation or promotion of cancer or any other adverse effect on human health. Currently available information on health and bioeffects of extremely low frequency fields does not provide a basis for establishing more restrictive exposure limits.”

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International Agency for Research on Cancer (World Health Organization), 2001

Visit the IARC’s International EMF Research project.

In June 2001, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group on ELF-EMF reached its conclusions after a review of EMF studies. In March of 2002 these conclusions were published as Monograph 80, “Static and Extremely Low-Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields.” The text of the Monograph is not available on the Internet, but can be ordered from World Health Organization.

Conclusions

There is limited evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields in relation to childhood leukemia.

There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields in relation to all other cancers.

There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of static electric or magnetic fields and extremely low-frequency electric fields.

There is inadequate evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields.

No data relevant to the carcinogenicity of static electric or magnetic fields and extremely low-frequency electric fields in experimental animals were available.

Extremely low-frequency magnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).

Static electric and magnetic fields and extremely low-frequency electric fields are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3).

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (U.S.), 1999

In 1992, the U.S. Congress authorized the Electric and Magnetic Fields Research and Public Information Dissemination Program (EMF-RAPID Program) in the Energy Policy Act (PL 102-486, Section 2118).

Visit the “Electrical & Magnetic Fields” web page.

The Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) was mandated upon completion of the program to provide a report outlining the possible human health risks associated with exposure to ELF-EMF. This document was published in June 1999.

Conclusions

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) concludes that ELF-EMF exposure cannot be recognized as entirely safe because of weak scientific evidence that exposure may pose a leukemia hazard. In our opinion, this finding is insufficient to warrant aggressive regulatory concern. However, because virtually everyone in the United States uses electricity and therefore is routinely exposed to ELF-EMF, passive regulatory action is warranted such as a continued emphasis on educating both the public and the regulated community on means aimed at reducing exposures. The NIEHS does not believe that other cancers or non-cancer health outcomes provide sufficient evidence of a risk to currently warrant concern.

The NIEHS, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), published a public information booklet in 1995.

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