Electric and Magnetic Fields and Health

Effect on Human Health

Over the last 40 years, many studies have examined the potential effects of electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) on human health. Hundreds of epidemiological studies have been conducted around the world with power company workers and the general public, including people living in the immediate vicinity of high-voltage lines.

In addition, several laboratory studies have explored the effects of these fields on the living cells of various animal species and humans. They addressed all major aspects of human health, including cancer, neurological, immunological and cardiovascular diseases, as well as reproduction. Despite the broad scope of these studies, researchers have been unable to identify harmful effects on human health associated with these fields. This is reassuring.

Opinion of public health officials

A number of opinions on the health effects of EMFs have been issued by experts mandated by national public institutions or international agencies, or by specialists acting on their own behalf. Here are the opinions of Québec, Canadian and international authorities:

Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (2014)

A Scientific Committee was created in June 2011 to examine the health effects of magnetic fields generated by power lines. The committee was comprised of representatives of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (MSSS), the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) and regional public health authorities. Its mandate was to study this issue and propose a joint position. Here's an excerpt of the committee's report entitled "Position des autorités de santé publique sur la gestion des champs magnétiques émis par les lignes électriques" (position of public health authorities on the management of magnetic fields emitted by power lines):

"The Scientific Committee considers there is no scientific basis for adopting an exposure limit for magnetic fields at extremely low frequencies below established standards or guidelines. Therefore, the Committee does not recommend an exposure limit for magnetic fields nor a minimum distance from a source of exposure or an exclusion zone for new constructions for certain establishments (hospitals, daycares, etc.) near high-voltage lines." [translation]

Health Canada

Health Canada is the federal department in charge of health matters in Canada. Its website contains a great deal of information on health and safety issues of interest to the general public. One page is dedicated to extremely low-frequency EMFs. The site provides the following information on guidelines:

"The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has issued guidelines for limiting exposure to extremely low frequency EMF. These guidelines help ensure that exposures to extremely low frequency EMF do not create electric currents that are stronger than the ones made naturally in your body. The electric signals used by your brain and nervous system make it possible for you to move, think and feel."

"Extremely low frequency EMF exposures in Canadian homes, schools and offices are far below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP guidelines. You don't need to take precautions to protect yourself from these kinds of exposures"

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a United Nations agency that specializes in health matters. In 1996, it launched the International EMF Project in collaboration with national and international research agencies and institutes for the purpose of assessing the effect of EMF exposure on health and the environment. The project is being carried out in cooperation with national and international research agencies and institutes. The WHO conducted a meticulous analysis of all available scientific data. The following is an excerpt of a fact sheet it published in 2007:

"In October 2005, WHO convened a Task Group of scientific experts to assess any risks to health that might exist from exposure to ELF [extremely low frequency] electric and magnetic fields in the frequency range >0 to 100,000 Hz (100 kHz). (...) Following a standard health risk assessment process, the Task Group concluded that there are no substantive health issues related to ELF electric fields at levels generally encountered by members of the public."

Excerpt from the WHO website [consulted in 2007]

Video (2013): Electric and magnetic fields: Over 40 years of scientific studies

In 1996, the World Health Organization set up a vast project to study electric and magnetic fields.

Michael Repacholi, who led this project from 1996 to 2006, tells us about the results of the study in this video:

Running time: 4 min. 04 sec.

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