Electromagnetic fields (EMF)

What is the International EMF Project?

Background

Potential health effects of exposure to static and time varying electric and magnetic fields need scientific clarification. Electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which there is anxiety and speculation are spreading. EMF exposure now occurs to varying degrees to all populations of the world, and the levels will continue to increase with advancing technology. Thus, even a small health consequence from EMF exposure could have a major public health impact.

Concerns have been expressed that exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields at power frequencies (50/60 Hz) could lead to an increased incidence of cancer in children and other adverse health effects. The evidence comes primarily from residential epidemiological studies. These studies suggest that children exposed to ELF magnetic fields have an associated increased risk of leukaemia.

Radio frequency (RF) fields are used to great benefits in many facets of everyday life, such as radio and TV transmission, telecommunications (eg mobile telephones), diagnosis and treatments of disease and in industry for heating and sealing materials. With the rapid introduction of mobile telecommunications devices, especially among the general public, there has been a focus on the problems associated with near field RF exposure to the head from the small radiating antenna of mobile phones. In addition, concerns persist that exposure to pulsed and amplitude modulated RF fields may cause specific health effects.

As societies develop, greater use of certain technologies leads to increasing exposure to static electric and magnetic fields. This is especially the case in industry, transport, power transmission, research and medicine. Possible health effects from static fields have never been properly assessed. Given the rapid expansion of medical devices and imminent introduction, potentially on a large scale, of magnetic levitation transport systems that use strong static magnetic fields, any health impacts need to be properly assessed.

As part of its charter to protect public health and in response to public concern over health effects of EMF exposure, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the International EMF Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMF in the frequency range from 0 to 300 GHz. The EMF Project encourages focused research to fill important gaps in knowledge and to facilitate the development of internationally acceptable standards limiting EMF exposure.

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Last update:

30 June 2014 16:25 CEST