Scientific Reviews on EMF

Numerous internationally recognized scientific organizations and independent regulatory advisory groups have conducted scientific reviews of the EMF research literature. It is their ability to bring together experts from a variety of disciplines to review the full body of research on this complex issue, that gives their reports the credibility and recognition they have received.

Review Conclusions

Without exception, these major reviews have reported that the body of data, as large as it is, does not demonstrate that exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields causes cancer or other health risks, although the possibility cannot be dismissed. The weakness of the reported associations, the lack of consistency and the severe limitations in exposure assessment in the epidemiology studies together with the lack of support from laboratory studies were key considerations in the findings of the scientific reviews. Most reviews recommend further research, and, appropriately, research is ongoing worldwide.


  • National Radiological Protection Board 2004, United Kingdom

    Review of the Scientific Evidence for Limiting Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields 0-300 GHz

    It is concluded that currently the results of these [epidemiological and experimental] studies on EMFs and health, taken individually or as collectively reviewed by expert groups, are insufficient either to make a conclusive judgment on causality or to quantify appropriate exposure restrictions.

  • Electromagnetic Fields Committee of the Health Council of the Netherlands May 2001, The Netherlands

    Electromagnetic Fields: Annual Update 2001

    The [Health Council of the Netherlands] Committee, like the IARC [see last bullet below] itself, points out that there is no evidence to support the existence of a causal relationship here. Nor has research yet uncovered any evidence that a causal relationship might exist. Nevertheless, new suggestions for possible mechanisms … are regularly put forward. However, none of these hypotheses can presently explain how ELF magnetic fields exposure might lead to cancer. Is this statement by the IARC sufficient reason to recommend that steps be taken to, for example, limit children’s long-term exposure to ELF magnetic fields? Since the conclusion of the IARC is not different from that of the Committee, it adheres to its previously expressed view that, on the basis of the current level of knowledge, there is no reason to take such action.

  • California Department of Health Services June 2002

    An Evaluation of the Possible Risks From Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) From Power Lines, Internal Wiring, Electrical Occupations and Appliances

    The three CDHS epidemiologists who wrote the report stated that: “…to one degree or another…” they “…were inclined to believe that EMFs can cause some degree of increased risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and miscarriage.

  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (World Health Organization) June 2001, Lyon, France

    Static and Extremely Low-Frequency (ELF) Electric and Magnetic Fields

    ELF magnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on consistent statistical associations of high level residential magnetic fields with a doubling of risk of childhood leukaemia."

    Studies in experimental animals have not shown a consistent carcinogenic or co-carcinogenic effects of exposures to ELF magnetic fields, and no scientific explanation has been established for the observed association of increased childhood leukaemia risk with increasing residential ELF magnetic field exposure."

  • Electromagnetic Fields Committee of the Health Council of the Netherlands May 2001, The Netherlands

    Electromagnetic Fields: Annual Update 2001

    It therefore remains the committee’s belief that it is not likely that children (or adults) living near to high-voltage power lines are at risk through exposure to electromagnetic fields generated by those lines. This view is consistent with that of the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation – a committee of the UK’s National Radiological Protection Board, chaired by Sir Richard Doll – as published in early March 2001 (Adv01):

    'There is … some epidemiological evidence that prolonged exposure to higher levels of power frequency magnetic fields is associated with a small risk of leukaemia in children. … In the absence of clear evidence of a carcinogenic effect in adults, or of a plausible explanation from experiments in animals or isolated cells, the epidemiological evidence is currently not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion that such fields cause leukaemia in children. Unless, however, further research indicates that the finding is due to chance or some currently unrecognised artefact, the possibility remains that intense and prolonged exposures to magnetic fields can increase the risk of leukaemia in children.'

  • National Radiological Protection Board March 2001, United Kingdom

    ELF Electromagnetic Fields andthe Risk of Cancer, Report of an Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation

    Laboratory experiments have provided no good evidence that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields are capable of producing cancer, nor do human epidemiological studies suggest that they cause cancer in general. There is, however, some epidemiological evidence that prolonged exposure to higher levels of power frequency magnetic fields is associated with a small risk of leukaemia in children. In practice, such levels of exposure are seldom encountered by the general public in the UK. In the absence of clear evidence of a carcinogenic effect in adults, or of a plausible explanation from experiments on animals or isolated cells, the epidemiological evidence is currently not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion that such fields cause leukaemia in children. Unless, however, further research indicates that the finding is due to chance or some currently unrecognised artefact, the possibility remains that intense and prolonged exposures to magnetic fields can increase the risk of leukaemia in children. (Chapter 7, Section 15)

  • National Research Council (National Academy Of Sciences) October 1996, USA, Committee on the Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields on Biologic Systems, Board on Radiation Effects Research, Commission on Life Sciences, Washington, D.C.

    Possible Health Effects from Exposure to Electric and Magnetic Fields

    Based on a comprehensive evaluation of published studies relating to the effects of power frequency electric and magnetic fields on cells, tissues, and organisms(including humans), the conclusion of the committee is that the current body of evidence does not show that exposure to these fields presents a human­ health hazard. Specifically, no conclusive and consistent evidence shows that exposures to residential electric and magnetic fields produce cancer, adverse neurobehavioral effects, or reproductive and developmental effects.”  (p.1)"The body of evidence, in the committee's judgment, has not demonstrated that exposure to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields is a human-health hazard. However, some epidemiologic data support an association between surrogate measurements of magnetic fields and an increased risk of childhood leukemia.  Further research for understanding the various ways of measuring exposure and their possible association with adverse health outcomes in model and human systems will be needed to resolve the uncertainty. (p. 185)

  • Virginia Department of Health February 1996, USA, Eleventh Annual Report

    Monitoring of Ongoing Researchon the Health Effects of High Voltage Transmission Lines

    The preponderance of evidence for an increased risk of cancer in humans from exposure to EMF presented in the epidemiologic studies published so far, taken individually or collectively, can best be construed as tenuous, and does not allude to an inordinate hazard.…Given the inherent limitations of the epidemiologic studies, absence of an exposure-effect or dose-response relationship, lack of consistency and specificity of observations, and a void in experimental verification, it is not currently possible to state with any certainty that there is a human health risk associated with exposure to EMF or with living near high voltage transmission lines.  (p.18)

  • American Cancer Society January/February 1996, USA, CA — A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

    Electromagnetic Field Exposure and Cancer: A Review of Epidemiologic Evidence

    The weakness and inconsistent nature of epidemiologic data, combined with the continued dearth of coherent and reproducible findings from experimental laboratory research, leave one uncertain and rather doubtful that any real biologic link exists between EMF exposure and carcinogenicity….Should our research investment not lead to reproducible and cohesive results, the scientific community will need to reach some consensus about the likelihood and possible extent of risk. While it may be impossible to prove either the presence or absence of risk, perhaps it can be feasible to assign likely risk boundaries upon which practical guidelines for community consensus can be reached.  (p.42-43)

  • American Physical Society May 1995, USA, Panel on Public Affairs

    Background Paper on Powerline Fields and Public Health

    The scientific literature and the reports of review panels show no consistent, significant link between cancer and the 60-Hz ELF fields. This literature includes epidemiological studies, research on biological systems, and the analyses of theoretical mechanisms. This result is consistent with those that have advanced arguments that there can be no such link. The preponderance of the epidemiological and biophysical/biological research findings have failed to substantiate those studies that have reported specific adverse health effects from the exposure to 60 Hz ELFs. It is always possible that some minor carcinogenic connection might be found, but the present data do not establish that connection.  (p. 1-2)

  • American Medical Association January1995, USA, Report 7 of the Council on Scientific Affairs

    Effects of Electric and Magnetic Fields

    Some studies of the past 15 years have associated exposures to 50 or 60 Hz electric and magnetic fields with slightly elevated risk of developing cancer or leukemia in children or adults. However, the in consistency of the results and the shortcomings of most of the studies, in terms of selecting test and control groups, estimating exposures, and accounting for key variables that might affect outcomes, detract from the studies’ conclusions....It isnot certain that electromagnetic fields pose health risks,or if they do, which attribute or mechanism of action is responsible....Yet, without stronger evidence there is no problem, it would be unwise to dismiss the possibility that electromagnetic fields have adverse health effects.” p.10-11“The Council of Scientific Affairs recommends that the following statement[s] be adopted and that the remainder of the report be filed.

    “[That] no scientifically documented health risk has been associated with the usually occurring levels of electromagnetic fields; nevertheless, the American Medical Association should continue to monitor development and issues related to the subject.  (p. 12)

  • National Radiological Protection Board April 1994, United Kingdom, Supplementary Report by the Advisory Group on Non-ionizing Radiation, Prepared for the National Radiological Protection Board

    Electromagnetic Fields and The Risk of Cancer

    The [Advisory] Group[on Non-Ionising Radiation] has concluded that all these studies [Swedish, Danish, Finnish childhood epidemiology studies] were well controlled and substantially better than that previously reported associations with cancer. The studies do not establish that exposure to electromagnetic fields is a cause of cancer but, taken together, they do providesome evidence to suggest that the possibility exists in the case of childhood leukemia.”  (p. 79)

    "Thus, at present, there is no persuasive biological evidence that ELF electromagnetic fields can influence any of the accepted stages in carcinogenesis. There is no clear basis from which to derive a meaningful assessment of risk, nor is there any indication of how any putative risk might vary with exposure.  (p. 80)

  • The Danish Ministry of Health, Expert Group on Non-Ionising Radiation February 1994, Denmark

    Report on the Risk of Cancer in Children Living in Homes Exposed to 50 Hz Magnetic Fields From High Voltage Lines (Appendum)

    The combined analyses [of the Swedish, Danish, and Finnish childhood epidemiology studies] add more statistical power to the statistical association of childhood cancers with 50 Hz magnetic field exposure but cannot resolve the uncertainty in terms of causal inference.

    Following a discussion of the combined analyses, the Danish expert group concerning non-ionizing radiation does not find reason to change the main conclusions in this [1993] report.  (p. 66)

  • The Danish Ministry of Health, Expert Group on Non-Ionising Radiation May 1993, Denmark

    Report on the Risk of Cancer in Children Living in Homes Exposed to 50 Hz Magnetic Fields From High Voltage Lines

    The expert group believed that neither the earlier nor the latest studies offers sufficient documentation to characterize 50 Hz magnetic fields in homes adjacent to high-current electricity supply plants as a cancer-inducing factor among children. The studies described do not, however, allow this assumption to be dismissed. The group, therefore, finds no scientific reason for establishing standards with respect to high-current plants.  (p. 70)

  • Department of the Partnership for Social and Economic Development, National Institute of Health and Medical Research February1993, Paris, France

    Synthesis of the Literature on Health Effects From Very Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields

    Any epidemiological data must be interpreted in light of its biologic plausibility and experimental results.  Now, animal experiments have never demonstrated carcinogenic effects of exposure to EMF.  In conclusion, the epidemiologic results presently available do not permit the exclusion of a role for magnetic fields in the incidence of leukemia, particularly in children. New investigations are necessary to confirm or deny this role.  (p. 46)

  • Department of Energy, Ireland July 1992, A report to Mr. Robert Molloy, T.D., Minister of Energy, Department of Energy

    Electromagnetic Fields. A Review of Recent Developments in Research and Public Attitudes, and the Response of Authorities to These Developments

    "Without exception these reports and the positions taken by the organizations concerned do not see enough evidence to be able to indict electromagnetic fields as a hazard to health."  (p. xx) [In this report the Department of Energy refers to all the other reviews as part of their conclusion]

  • Oak Ridge Associated Universities June 1992, USA, Prepared by Oak Ridge Associated Universities for the United States Committee on Interagency Radiation Research and Policy Coordination (ORAU92/F8), (Released November 1992

    Health Effects of Low-Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields

    This review indicates that there is no convincing evidence in the published literature to support the contention that exposures to extremely low-frequency electric and magnetic fields (ELF-EMF) generated by sources such as household appliances, video display terminals, and local powerlines are demonstrable health hazards. “Epidemiologic findings of an association between electric and magnetic fields and childhood leukemia or other childhood or adult cancers are inconsistent and inconclusive. No plausible biological mechanism is presented that would explain causality. Neither is there conclusive evidence that these fields initiate cancer, promote cancer, or influence tumor progression. Likewise, there is no convincing evidence to support suggestions that electrical and magnetic fields result in birth defects or other reproductive problems. Furthermore, any neurobehavioral effects are likely to be temporary and do not appear to have health consequences.(p.ES-11 to ES-12)

  • National Radiological Protection Board June 1992, United Kingdom, Report of an Advisory Group on Non-ionizing Radiation Prepared for National Radiological Protection Board, United Kingdom(Vol. 3, No. 1, 1992)

    Electromagnetic Fields and The Risk of Cancer

    In the absence of any unambiguous experimental evidence to suggest that exposure to these electromagnetic fields is likely to be carcinogenic, in the broadest sense of the term, the findings to date can be regarded only as sufficient to justify formulating a hypothesis for testing by further investigation.  (p.132)

  • Committee of the Health Council of the Netherlands April 1992

    Extremely Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields and Health

    [T]he Committee thinks that any evidence from currently available research is insufficient to support the hypothesis that exposure to ELF EMF generated by the electricity distribution system and by electric household appliances and industrial electrical equipment has any influence on the initiation or growth of malignancies, or on the course of pregnancy or fetal development. The Committee recognizes that several epidemiological studies in the US have reported a relation between the configuration of overhead distribution lines(the 'wire code') and the incidence of childhood leukemia. This relation is in itself insufficient reason for the Committee to assume a causal relationship between exposure to ELFEMF and the incidence of leukemia (or other types of cancer).A relation with the measured field strength has not been found. (emphasis in original).  (p.21)

  • Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering April 1992, USA, Response to inquiry for the Department of Health Services, State of Connecticut

    Electromagnetic Field Health Effects

    [T]he only general conclusion can be that the state of our knowledge at this time does not permit firm judgments[sic] about possible adverse effects of Extremely Low Frequency(ELF) magnetic fields on human health. Even the weight of evidence indicating the possibility of such effects versus the weight of evidence that such effects could not occur is difficult to judge. Absolute proof of the occurrence of adverse effects of ELF fields at prevailing magnitudes cannot be found in the available evidence, and the same evidence does not permit a judgment [sic] that adverse effects could not occur, as is true for any putative hazard without a solid base of evidence.…Epidemiological studies of human populations exposed to magnetic fields are difficult to interpret. At this time, they lack a proven mechanism, the excess risks are relatively small, and the estimateof exposures is fraught with difficulties. Associations between exposure, and attempts to relate the excess risks to actual measurements of magnetic fields have been relatively unsuccessful. This failure may be due to the difficulties in documenting past exposures by recent measurements. Thus,the epidemiological literature does not presently support a conclusion that electromagnetic field exposure unequivocally increases risk for cancer or any other adverse health outcome. In fact, the totality of the epidemiological studies suggests that if adverse health effects from residential electromagnetic field exposure exist, they are not likely to make a large contribution.  (p.7)

  • Universities Consortium on Electromagnetic Fields March 1992, Colorado, USA

    Investigation in Powerline Frequency EMF and Its Risks to Health: A Review of the Scientific Literature

    Taken together, the conclusions from this review highlight the absence of health effects directly related to 60 Hz alternating current EMF on humans.  It is equally clear that the book is not closed.  Several questions remain unanswered that should be addressed in carefully conducted research by qualified investigators who are knowledgeable in the problems and pitfalls of this type of research.  (p.2)

  • Electro-magnetic Health Effects Committee, Public Utility Commission of Texas March 1992, Austin, Texas, USA

    Health Effects of Exposure to Powerline-Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields

    The Committee believes that, based on its evaluation of the existing EMF research, the evidence at this time is insufficient to conclude that exposure to EMF from electric power transmission lines poses an imminent or significant public health risk. In general, the Committee's evaluation is corroborated by other EMF literature summaries and background reports. The Committee concludes that at present there is insufficient evidence regarding human health effects of EMF to provide the basis for a health-based standard.  The Committee can find no reason to create arbitrary numbers to use as a desired level of exposure, because the use of such numbers cannot be argued or defended on the basis of scientific evidence. The primary objective of the Committee is the protection of public health, and the Committee can find no scientific argument to support standards, either through guidance orthrough regulatory criteria.  (p.xxi)

  • Illinois Department of Public Health in coordination with the Illinois EPA

    March 1992, Illinois, USA, Prepared in Response to House Resolution 1064 of the 86th General Assembly of the State of Illinois by the Illinois Department of Public Health in coordination with the Illinois EPA

    Possible Health Effects of Extremely Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields Exposure: A Review

    Even though certain bio effects have been clearly established, the basis for those effects and the underlying mechanisms of interaction remain largely unknown. Whether these observed ELF bio effects cause adverse health effects in humans and animals is not yet clear. No scientific consensus has been reached on this issue. Without sufficient information, health risks from exposure to these fields cannot be properly determined.  (p.iii)

  • Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board

    January 1992, USA, Letter written in response to memorandum from EPA requesting a peer review of the draft report (EPA/60016-90/005B), Prepared by Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board

    Evaluation of the Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields

    Currently available information is insufficient to conclude that the electric and magnetic fields are carcinogenic. Some human epidemiologic data report an association between surrogates for electric and magnetic field exposure and an increased incidence of some types of cancer, but the conclusion of causality is currently inappropriate because of limited evidence of an exposure-response relationship and lack of a clear understanding of biologic plausibility. (p.3)