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Electromagnetic Fields

Cell phones, power lines, computers and medical equipment expose humans to electromagnetic fields.  Should we be alarmed?

Electric and magnetic fields are invisible forces that surround electrical equipment, power cords, and wires that carry electricity, including outdoor power lines. You cannot see or feel EMFs.

Electric Fields: These are formed whenever a wire is plugged into an outlet, even when the appliance is not turned on. The higher the voltage, the stronger the electric field.

Magnetic Fields: These are formed when electric current is flowing within a device or wire. The greater the current, the stronger the magnetic field.

Electric and magnetic fields can occur separately or together. For example, when you plug the power cord for a lamp into a wall socket, it creates an electric field along the cord. When you turn the lamp on, the flow of current through the cord creates a magnetic field. Meanwhile, the electric field is still present.  (from Health Canada)

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has evaluated the scientific data and has classified ELF magnetic fields as being “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. IARC based this classification on the following:human health population studies showing weak evidence of an association with childhood leukemia; and a large database of laboratory study results showing inadequate evidence of an association with cancer in animals.  In summary, when all of the studies are evaluated together, the evidence suggesting that EMFs may contribute to an increased risk of cancer is very weak

·    RF (radio frequencies)—including broadcast antennas, induction heaters, and cell telephones

·    ELF (extremely low frequencies)—including AC electricity and video display terminals (VDTs)

·    Static Magnetic Fields—including DC electricity.

WHO IARC May 2011Press Release: Cell Phone and Cancer

“WHO has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.”


NIEHS general information and resourcs on EMF

NIOSH report on Cell phones and brain cancer

FDA information on radiation-emitting devises, including those used in health care

NCI factsheet

EMF’s from the World Health Organization