EMF Research Summary - L2

How much research on EMF and health has been conducted?
What is the World Health Organization's advice on EMF health and safety?
Where is the EMR research up to?
What do other authorities say about EMF research and health?
What is the ongoing research agenda?
What more needs to be done?

How much research on EMF and health has been conducted?

The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains an extensive database of scientific research into the effects of electromagnetic energy (EME), including studies on the effects of radiofrequencies on public health.

As reviewed by the WHO in 1981 and 1992, research on biological effects and possible health hazards of exposures to radiofrequency fields has been underway for more than 50 years

1981 - http;//www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc016.htm
1992 - http;//www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc016.htm

The WHO database, which is available on their website, shows that there are more than 1900 published scientific articles on the biological and health effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, and more than 630 studies on radiofrequencies specifically used by mobile phone networks.

WHO EMF Research Database http://www.who.int/peh-emf/research/database/en/


What is the World Health Organization’s advice on EMF health and safety?

In relation to EMF and health the WHO says;

The main conclusion from the WHO reviews is that EMF exposures below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP international guidelines do not appear to have any known consequence on health'"

WHO Standards and Guidelines

In 2011 the WHO updated its fact sheet on mobile phones and health concluding:

"…A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use."

WHO Fact Sheet 193 June 2011 - Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones 


Where is the EMF research up to?

In relation to EMF research the WHO says,

“Extensive research has been conducted into possible health effects of exposure to many parts of the frequency spectrum including mobile phones and base stations. All reviews conducted so far have indicated that exposures below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP (1998) EMF guidelines, covering the full frequency range from 0-300 GHz, do not produce any known adverse health effect. However, there are gaps in knowledge still needing to be filled before better health risk assessments can be made."

WHO Research http://www.who.int/peh-emf/research/en/


What do other authorities say about EMF research and health?

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)

In relation to the overall conclusions from research into EMF and health ARPANSA conclude,

“There is essentially no evidence that microwave exposure from mobile telephones causes cancer, and no clear evidence that such exposure accelerates the growth of an already-existing cancer. More research on this issue has been recommended.

Users concerned about the possibility of health effects can minimize their exposure to the microwave emissions by: limiting the duration of mobile telephone calls, using a mobile telephone which does not have the antenna in the handset or using a 'hands-free' attachment.

There is no clear evidence in the existing scientific literature that the use of mobile telephones poses a long-term public health hazard (although the possibility of a small risk cannot be ruled out).”

ARPANSA Conclusion http://www.arpansa.gov.au/mobilephones/index.cfm 


European Commission

The independent Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) has published an updated scientific Opinion in 2009 on possible health risks from EMF. After a careful review of recent research the SCENIHR states:

'It is concluded from three independent lines of evidence (epidemiological, animal and in vitro studies) that exposure to RF fields is unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in humans....'

The new Opinion points out that there is no overall increase in brain tumour rates but recommends further research to identify whether phone use well beyond 10 years might increase cancer risk.  The European Commission summary states:

'The update considered more than 200 new scientific papers yet the conclusions differ little from the earlier opinion. Based on current evidence the main conclusions remain that radio frequency fields used in wireless communication technologies are unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in the human population at large. However, further studies are needed to clarify if long-term exposure to mobile phones (well beyond 10 years) increases cancer risk for an individual using a mobile phone frequently and to examine the effects on children. The Commission has committed research funds from the 7th research framework programme to investigate the link between mobile phones and brain cancer risk in children...'

click here to download the SCENIHR report


On Children - The 2007 Irish Government review states,

"Recent expert analysis has concluded that there are no major effects due to focusing of the RF field in the head or to other properties of a child's head that might result in higher RF energy.  Even though children are using mobile phones at a younger age there are few users under the school age of five.  Children tend to use their phones for sending texts rather than voice calls; this reduces their exposure.  The use of hands-free kits also reduces exposures but these are not popular among children.Three expert groups have reviewed the question of whether there should be restrictions on children using mobile phones.  Two have recommended that there should be some restrictions, while one has suggested that it would make no difference.  Given this disagreement it seems prudent to suggest that mobile phone use should be limited in younger children.  However, there is no specific scientific justification for this advice."


What is the ongoing research agenda?

Priority areas for addressing research gaps are set by the World Health Organization (WHO) through the WHO EMF Research Agenda. http://www.who.int/peh-emf/research/agenda/en/index.html  


What more needs to be done?

WHO health risk assessment for radiofrequency fields (RF) fall within the International EMF Project. The health risk assessments are the result of in-depth critical reviews conducted through independent, scientific peer-review groups.

In May 2010, the WHO announced that they “will conduct a formal health risk assessment of radiofrequency fields exposure by 2012. Meanwhile, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO specialized agency, is expected to review the carcinogenic potential of mobile phones in 2011.”


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