Low-level EMFs are low risk

Low-level electromagnetic fields created by mobile communication systems and power cables will not adversely affect human beings, according to a new report from the IEE.

The IEE published its 2004 position statement this month on possible harmful biological effects of low-level electromagnetic fields (EMFs) of frequencies such as mobile communication systems and power cables.

And the good news is that the balance of scientific evidence over the past two years does not indicate harmful effects occur in humans due to low-level EMFs up to 300GHz, according to the IEE Policy Advisory Group on Biological Effects.

“After analysing the past two years of peer-reviewed literature on the topic, the group’s conclusion is the same as that reached in its last statement in 2002,” said the Chair, Professor Anthony Barker from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.

“The absence of any new and robust evidence of harmful effects is reassuring. The cumulative evidence from a large body of research compiled in the past 20 years suggests, in general, that the existence of harmful health effects is unlikely,” he added.

However, pooled analysis of epidemiological studies has suggested an association between higher magnetic field levels at power frequencies and childhood leukaemia.

Although the raised risk was relatively low, the group supports further epidemiological and laboratory-based research to investigate its relevance to human health. A causal link between leukaemia and EMFs has not yet been shown, said Professor Barker.

Ongoing studies of mobile phone effects will help answer some outstanding questions, but the literature to date does not show cause for public concern.

Professor Barker said the IEE view was consistent with other major reviews of the issue. He stressed that the group recommends that isolated reports of biological effects or epidemiological findings be treated with caution until confirmed by an independent group.

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