Effects of low level EM fields still not proven

There is still no convincing scientific evidence showing harmful effects of low level electromagnetic fields on people, says the latest position statement from the IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers).

There is still no convincing scientific evidence showing harmful effects of low level electromagnetic fields on people, says the latest position statement from the IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers).

The IEE’s assessment is the result of examining over 700 relevant refereed papers published throughout 1998 and 1999, covering five areas: cellular, animal, epidemiological and human studies and mechanisms of interaction.

At low frequencies, recent evidence from major epidemiological studies and the cumulative evidence from the large body of literature built up over the past 20 years suggests that the existence of harmful effects is unlikely. The IEE Working Party believes, therefore, that future proposals for low frequency electromagnetic field research should now be weighed carefully against other public-health priorities.

At higher (radio) frequencies less data is available. Whilst existing data does not show harmful effects, the Working Party believes that further research, both epidemiological and laboratory based, is needed. This view is based on public concern and the increasingly ubiquitous nature of our exposure to such fields rather than a likelihood that harmful effects exist.

The statement is the fifth produced by a specialist independent Working Party set up by the IEE in 1992 to consider the possible harmful effects of low level low frequency electromagnetic fields. In January 1998 the Working Party’s terms of reference were extended to include frequencies up to 300 GHz to reflect public concern over possible health effects of radiofrequency energy – from mobile communications systems in particular.

The IEE Working Party is chaired by Professor Tony Barker, a consultant Medical Physicist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield. Professor Barker has been involved in research on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields for over 16 years. The IEE will continue to maintain a watching brief on the subject as long as public concern exists.