Electric and Magnetic Fields

Effect on Human Health

For over 40 years, scientists have been investigating the possible effects of EMFs on human health. Hundreds of epidemiological studies have been conducted on various groups, including electric utility workers and the general public. In addition, numerous laboratory studies have been conducted on the effects of fields on the living cells of various animal species as well as humans.

To date, no studies have been able to show that fields at the levels found in the home or workplace have any clear effect. However, some doubt persists as to whether a relatively weak magnetic field (0.4 µT) could increase the risk of childhood leukemia. Data on the subject remain contradictory.

Research on the effects of 60-Hz electric and magnetic fields on human health

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Experimental studies on animals have not reported any toxic effects at electric field levels of 30 kV/m, which is 3 to 30 times ambient levels measured in residential settings. In humans, it would appear that acute or long-term exposure to electric fields has no adverse effect on health.

Every epidemiological study that has looked at the risk of leukemia in children exposed to electric fields in the home has reported that there is no association. When it comes to adults, epidemiological findings show that occupational exposure to electric fields does not appear to increase the risk of brain cancer, lung cancer or cancer of the digestive tract. Regarding leukemia, the findings are not as clear-cut, but they too suggest that exposure does not increase risk.

Studies conducted on rats have not shown electric fields to have any marked effects on fertility, embryonic development or postnatal development at exposure levels of up to 100 or 150 kV/m, or on the mutation of germ cells in mice exposed to 20 kV/m. As for epidemiological studies, those that looked at the effects of EMFs on reproduction do not contain any electric field exposure data. However, according to findings based on electric field exposure levels estimated on the basis of the proximity, size and number of power line conductors, electric fields do not appear to have any effect on reproduction.

Very few studies have looked at the effects of electric fields on neurodegenerative diseases. When we review the findings of studies based on job titles, it appears that electric utility workers, who are likely to have the greatest exposure to strong electric fields, do not present more cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease than workers in other industries.


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