The purpose of this opinion is to update the SCENIHR opinion of 21 March 2007 in the
light of newly available information, and to provide a methodological framework and
corresponding guidelines to evaluate available scientific evidence in order to ensure the
best possible quality for risk assessment.
Radio frequency fields (RF fields)
It is concluded from three independent lines of evidence (epidemiological, animal and in
vitro studies) that exposure to RF fields is unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in
humans. However, as the widespread duration of exposure of humans to RF fields from
mobile phones is shorter than the induction time of some cancers, further studies are
required to identify whether considerably longer-term (well beyond ten years) human
exposure to such phones might pose some cancer risk.
Regarding non-carcinogenic outcomes, several studies were performed on subjects
reporting subjective symptoms. In the previous opinion, it was concluded that scientific
studies had failed to provide support for a relationship between RF exposure and selfreported
symptoms. Although an association between RF exposure and single symptoms
was indicated in some new studies, taken together, there is a lack of consistency in the
findings. Therefore, the conclusion that scientific studies have failed to provide support
for an effect of RF fields on self-reported symptoms still holds. Scientific studies have
indicated that a nocebo effect (an adverse non-specific effect that is caused by
expectation or belief that something is harmful) may play a role in symptom formation.
As in the previous opinion, there is no evidence supporting that individuals, including
those attributing symptoms to RF exposure, are able to detect RF fields. There is some
evidence that RF fields can influence EEG patterns and sleep in humans. However, the
health relevance is uncertain and mechanistic explanation is lacking. Further
investigation of these effects is needed. Other studies on functions/aspects of the
nervous system, such as cognitive functions, sensory functions, structural stability, and
cellular responses show no or no consistent effects.
Recent studies have not shown effects from RF fields on human or animal reproduction
and development. No new data have appeared that indicate any other effects on human
From the risk assessment perspective it is important to recognise that information on
possible effects caused by RF fields in children is limited. Furthermore, there is a lack of
information on diseases other than those discussed in this report.
Intermediate frequency fields (IF fields)
Occupational exposure to IF fields in certain areas is considerably higher than exposure
to the general public. However, very little research on IF and health risks in occupational
settings or for the general public have been presented since the previous opinion, and no
epidemiological studies have appeared. Consequently, the data are still too limited for an
appropriate risk assessment.
In view of the increasing occupational exposure to IF among workers in e.g. security,
shops, and certain industries it is important that research in this area is given priority.
Extremely low frequency fields (ELF fields)
The few new epidemiological and animal studies that have addressed ELF exposure and
cancer do not change the previous assessment that ELF magnetic fields are a possible
carcinogen and might contribute to an increase in childhood leukaemia. At present, in
vitro studies did not provide a mechanistic explanation of this epidemiological finding.
No new studies support a causal relationship between ELF fields and self-reported
Health Effects of Exposure to EMF
New epidemiological studies indicate a possible increase in Alzheimer's disease arising
from exposure to ELF. Further epidemiological and laboratory investigations of this
observation are needed.
Recent animal studies provided an indication for effects on the nervous system at flux
densities from 0.10-1.0 mT. However, there are still inconsistencies in the data, and no
definite conclusions can be drawn concerning human health effects.
Very few recent in vitro studies have investigated effects from ELF fields on diseases
other than cancer and those available have very little relevance. There is a need for
hypothesis-based in vitro studies to examine specific diseases.
It is notable that in vivo and in vitro studies show effects at exposure levels (from 0.10
mT and above) to ELF fields that are considerably higher than the levels encountered in
the epidemiological studies (μT-levels) which showed an association between exposure
and diseases such as childhood leukaemia and Alzheimer's disease. This warrants further
Although a fair number of studies have been published since the last opinion, the
conclusion drawn there stands: there is still a lack of adequate data for a proper risk
assessment of static magnetic fields. More research is necessary, especially to clarify the
many mixed and sometimes contradictory results.
Short term effects have been observed primarily on sensory functions for acute
exposure. However, there is no consistent evidence for sustained adverse health effects
from short term exposure up to several teslas.
The current database is inadequate for the purposes of the assessment of possible risks
due to environmental exposure to RF, IF and ELF.
The scientific rationale has identified a number of areas characterised by insufficient and
contradictory information regarding possible health associated effects from the various
frequency bands of the EMF spectrum. It is recommended that certain knowledge gaps
2. Methodological Framework
The SCENIHR is asked to provide a methodological framework and corresponding
guidelines to evaluate available scientific evidence in order to ensure the best possible
quality for risk assessment. The subject is covered in detail in chapter 3.8 of the opinion.
The present opinion provides a methodological framework and guidelines as:
- a general outline of criteria used for making EMF health risk assessment
- a description of the work procedure leading to the overall evaluation
- a specialised section where characteristics and quality criteria regarding dosimetry
and exposure assessment, epidemiology, human laboratory studies, in vivo
studies, and in vitro studies are presented.