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Key Action 4 : Environment and Health
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Electromagnetic fields

The 20th Century has seen an explosion of technological applications based on the use of electricity. They all generate different kinds of EMF. High-voltage power lines, domestic electrical appliances, radar, mobile phones, security devices – the list is endless and continues to grow, and it is necessary to ensure that any potential health effects that may be induced by increased exposure to EMF are better understood. Electromagnetic fields : picture
Case Studies

Advisory document on pulsed EMF

In vitro effects of EMF

EMF and carcinogens

When EMF interact with cells and tissues, they can cause heating, alter chemical reactions, or induce electrical charges and currents, all of which may potentially, in some cases, result in adverse health effects. Possible links between EMF and cancer or diseases such as Alzheimer’s have been suggested. Yet, to date, there is no conclusive evidence that EMF at current levels of exposure experienced by the general population actually cause health disorders.

In any case, legislators need validated scientific evidence to establish safety standards and exposure limits, while equipment manufacturers need it to design safe products. The projects which have been selected for Key Action 4 are contributing to this vital research effort.

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Case Studies

Advisory document on pulsed EMF

One such project(1) aims to produce an advisory document for the European Commission and Member States on the use of equipment using pulsed EMF. A group of experts from the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has been appointed to carry out this task. The team will liaise with organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration and with experts participating in programmes, such as the WHO International EMF Project.

Through contact with equipment manufacturers, designers and suppliers, the group will review existing and possible future technology in this field. In small, focused workshops, the experts will then discuss the resulting scientific evidence on the health effects caused by the technology. The outcome will be published in a final report for the European Commission.

(1) Development of advice to the EC on the risk to the health of the general public from the use of security and similar devices employing pulsed electromagnetic fields: QLK4-1999-01214

Prof. Jürgen Bernhardt
ICNIRP (DE)
j.h.bernhardt@online.de

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Case Studies

In vitro effects of EMF

The aim of the Reflex project(2) is to analyse primary cellular effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF), with special emphasis on the following parameters:

  • genotoxicity: EMF at levels below ICNIRP guidelines may not alter DNA directly, but could do so indirectly by triggering metabolic changes;
  • cell differentiation and function: will be studied in animal cells lines as a model for central nervous system cells exposed to EMF from mobile phones;
  • gene expression and protein targeting;
  • effects on the immune system; and
  • effects on processes involved in cancer development and programmed cell death (apoptosis).

Results of those studies will enable experts to improve their risk assessment studies, industry to design less harmful EMF products, and legislators to establish science-based threshold values for EMF exposure. If beneficial effects are seen, the work may lead to biomedical applications (e.g. EMF may be useful in treating psoriasis, healing bone fractures and relieving pain).

(2) Risk evaluation of potential environmental hazards from low-energy electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure using sensitive in vitro methods: QLK4-1999-01574

Prof. Franz Adlkofer
Foundation for Behaviour and Environment (DE)
prof.adlkofer@verum-foundation.de

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Case Studies

EMF and carcinogens

At present, public exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF) is low compared to existing exposure guidelines, but among other factors with the increasing number of mobile phones and RF based technologies, exposure is rising. The Cemfec project(3) is investigating whether RF can enhance the effects of known carcinogens.

One part of Cemfec comprises an animal study in which rats are exposed either to a carcinogen alone (in their drinking water) or to RF and the carcinogen simultaneously. The aim is to see whether those rats subjected to the combined exposure
develop more cancers.

The second part is an in vitro study of mouse cells, one of the cell lines studied being a cancer cell line. The cells are treated either with RF alone or with RF and a carcinogen. The aim is to compare markers associated with cancer development in these models.

(3) Combined effects of electromagnetic fields with environmental carcinogens: QLK4-1999-01214.

Prof. Jukka Juutilainen
University of Kuopio (FIN)
jukka.juutilainen@uku.fi

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