Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Effects of Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields: Thirty years of research

Feb 1, 2018 (Updated September 16, 2020)

The preponderance of research published from 1990 through May/August 2020 has found significant effects from exposure to radio frequency radiation as well as to extremely low frequency and static electromagnetic fields. Overall, 75% (n=711) of 944 radio frequency radiation studies reported significant effects. Additionally, 87% (n=611) of 705 extremely low frequency and static electromagnetic field studies found significant effects. 

Currently, there are 1,568 studies in Dr. Henry Lai's collection of research on the effects of exposure to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields. The abstracts for these studies can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

Government and industry-linked scientists often claim that research on the effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) is inconsistent, and that more research is needed before health warnings are issued or regulatory guidelines are strengthened.

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization classified radio frequency radiation (RFR) “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B). The IARC plans to review RFR again by 2024 because most peer-reviewed studies published in the past decade found significant evidence that RFR causes genotoxicity. Thus, the IARC will likely re-classify RFR to either "probably carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2A) or "carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1) at the next expert review.

Cell phones and other wireless devices also produce static and extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields. ELF was classified by the IARC as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B) a decade before RFR received this classification.

Dr. Henry Lai, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington and Editor Emeritus of the journal, Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, has compiled summaries of the research on the biologic and health effects of exposure to RFR and ELF EMF. His set of abstracts which cover the period from 1990 to July 2020 constitute a comprehensive collection of this research.

Dr. Lai reports that the preponderance of the research has found that exposure to RFR or ELF EMF produces oxidative damage or free radicals, and damages DNA. Moreover the preponderance of RFR studies that examined genetic and neurological effects has found significant effects.

The evidence for DNA damage has been found more consistently in animal and human (in vivo) studies than in studies of cell cultures (in vitro).

The abstracts can be downloaded from the BioInitiative web site by clicking on the link below.

Notes: The comet assay is a sensitive genotoxicity test for the detection of DNA damage and repair. This is a standard technique used in biomonitoring and genotoxicity testing.

The following results correct minor errors in my earlier summary of the findings.


Top Line Results

Radio frequency radiation:

91% (n=240) of 261 oxidative damage (or free radical) studies reported significant effects.

65% (n=226) of 348 genetic effects studies reported significant effects including:
  • 65% (n=72) of 110 DNA comet assay studies reported significant effects.
73% (n=245) of 335 neurological studies reported significant effects.

Overall, 75% (n=711) of 944 radio frequency radiation studies reported significant biologic effects.


Extremely low frequency and static field electromagnetic fields:

89% (n=235) of 263 oxidative damage (or free radical) studies reported significant effects.

78% (n=160) of 204 genetic effects studies reported significant effects including:
  • 73% (n=46) of 63 DNA comet assay studies reported significant effects.
91% (n=216) of 238 neurological studies reported significant effects.

Overall, 87% (n=611) of 705 extremely low frequency and static electromagnetic field studies reported significant biologic effects.


Overall, 80% (n=1,322) of 1,649 studies of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields reported significant effects.