24
Apr
2004

Possible effects of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), Radio Frequency Fields (RF) and Microwave Radiation on human health

101
EUROPEAN COMMISSION
DIRECTORATE-GENERAL HEALTH AND CONSUMER PROTECTION

Directorate C - Scientific Opinions
Unit C2 - Management of Scientific Committees; scientific co-operation and networks
Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment

Brussels,

C2/JCD/csteeop/EMF/RFF30102001/D(01)

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON TOXICITY, ECOTOXICITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT (CSTEE)

Opinion on Possible effects of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), Radio Frequency Fields (RF) and Microwave Radiation on human health

Expressed at the 27th CSTEE plenary meeting
Brussels, 30 October 2001

Opinion/Conclusions

Answer to question A:

With regard to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields, the CSTEE reached the following conclusions:

Combined analyses of the epidemiological studies on the association between exposure to ELF and childhood leukaemia have strengthened the evidence of an association. However, given some inconsistencies in exposure measurements and the absence of other criteria commonly used in assessing causality (particularly a plausible explanation of underlying biological mechanisms, see above), the association does not meet adequate criteria for being considered causal. Thus the overall evidence for 50/60 Hz magnetic fields to produce childhood leukaemia must be regarded as being limited * (*).

The effect, if any, seems to be limited to exposures above 0.4 µT. In European countries, the proportion of children exposed to such levels is less than 1%. Assuming that the risk is doubled among the exposed, in the general population this would roughly correspond to an excess incidence of less than 1% childhood leukaemia. To put this in context, in European countries, the incidence of leukaemia is around 45 per million children (age 0-14) per year.

Whether changes of recommended exposure limits to 50/60 Hz magnetic fields (12) ought to be recommended on this basis is a problem for risk managers, falling beyond the remit of the CSTEE.

There is no convincing suggestion of any other carcinogenic effect of ELF on either children for adults. Current information on this respect does not provide clues for reconsidering exposure limits.

Reports on possibly hypersensitive individuals require confirmation and do not provide a basis for proposing changes in the exposure limits.

* (*) This term is used according to the definition given by the International Agency for Research on cancer, i.e. “ A positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent … for which a causal interpretation is considered … to be credible, but chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence”. Indeed the CSTEE is aware that on this basis, IARC has recently evaluated that extremely low frequency magnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic to humans (group 2B) based on the association of higher level residential ELF magnetic fields and increased risk for childhood leukaemia.

(*) Information and comments from Dr. Claudio Gómez Perretta
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