• Exposure to electromagnetic fields has increased dramatically.
• Electromagnetic fields at low and non-thermal intensities increase risk of cancer in animals and humans.
• Some individuals are particularly sensitive and develop a syndrome of electrohypersensitivity.
• There is an urgent need to recognize hazards associated with excessive exposure to non-thermal levels of electromagnetic fields.
Exposure to low frequency and radiofrequency electromagnetic fields at low intensities poses a significant health hazard that has not been adequately addressed by national and international organizations such as the World Health Organization. There is strong evidence that excessive exposure to mobile phone-frequencies over long periods of time increases the risk of brain cancer both in humans and animals. The mechanism(s) responsible include induction of reactive oxygen species, gene expression alteration and DNA damage through both epigenetic and genetic processes. In vivo and in vitro studies demonstrate adverse effects on male and female reproduction, almost certainly due to generation of reactive oxygen species. There is increasing evidence the exposures can result in neurobehavioral decrements and that some individuals develop a syndrome of "electro-hypersensitivity" or "microwave illness", which is one of several syndromes commonly categorized as "idiopathic environmental intolerance". While the symptoms are non-specific, new biochemical indicators and imaging techniques allow diagnosis that excludes the symptoms as being only psychosomatic. Unfortunately standards set by most national and international bodies are not protective of human health. This is a particular concern in children, given the rapid expansion of use of wireless technologies, the greater susceptibility of the developing nervous system, the hyperconductivity of their brain tissue, the greater penetration of radiofrequency radiation relative to head size and their potential for a longer lifetime exposure.
The incidence of brain cancer in children and adolescents has increased between 2000 and 2010 (Ostrom et al., 2015). Gliomas are increasing in the Netherlands (Ho et al., 2014), glioblastomas are increasing in Australia (Dobes et al., 2011) and England (Philips et al., 2018) and all brain cancers are increasing in Spain (Etxeberrua et al., 2015) and Sweden (Hardell and Carlberg, 2017). The latency period between initial exposure and clinical occurrence of brain cancer is not known but is estimated to be long. While not all reports of brain cancer rates show an increase, some do. The continually increasing exposure to EMFs from all sources may contribute to these increases. The prevalence of EHS is unknown, but various reports suggest that it is between 1 and 10% of the population (Hallberg and Oberfeld, 2006; Huang et al., 2018). Male fertility has been declining (Geoffroy-Siraudin et al., 2012; Levine et al., 2017). EMFs increase the risk of each of these diseases and others. Alzheimer's disease is increasing in many countries worldwide and its association with ELF-EMF occupational exposure has been clearly demonstrated through several independent epidemiological studies (Davanipour and Sobel, 2009; Sobel et al., 1996; Qiu et al., 2004) and a meta-analysis of these studies (García et al., 2008). A recent meta-analysis (Huss et al., 2018) has reported an increased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in workers occupationally exposure to ELF-EMFs.
Safety limits for RF exposure have been based (until today) on the thermal effects of EMFs. But these standards do not protect people, particularly children, from the deleterious health effects of non-thermal EMFs (Nazıroğlu et al., 2013; Mahmoudabadi et al., 2015). Each of these diseases is associated with decrements in health and quality of life. Brain cancer patients often die is spite of some improvement in treatment, while EHS patients present with increased levels of distress, inability to work, and progressive social withdrawal. The ability for humans to reproduce is fundamental for the maintenance of our species.
The scientific evidence for harm from EMFs is increasingly strong. We do not advocate going back to the age before electricity or wireless communication, but we deplore the present failure of public health international bodies to recognize the scientific data showing the adverse effects of EMFs on human health. It is encouraging that some governments are taking action. France has removed WiFi from pre-schools and ordered Wi-Fi to be shut off in elementary schools when not in use (http://www.telegraph.co.uk.news/2017/12/11/france-ipose-total-ban-mobile-phones-schools/). The State of California Department of Public Health has issued a warning on use of mobile phones and offered advice on how to reduce exposure (State of California, 2017). There are many steps that are neither difficult nor expensive that can be taken to use modern technology but in a manner that significantly reduces threats to human health.
It is urgent that national and international bodies, particularly the WHO, take this significant public health hazard seriously and make appropriate recommendations for protective measures to reduce exposures. This is especially urgently needed for children and adolescents. It is also important that all parts of society, especially the medical community, educators, and the general public, become informed about the hazards associated with exposure to EMFs and of the steps that can be easily taken to reduce exposure and risk of associated disease."