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Crit Rev Biomed Eng. 2003;31(3):141-95.

Health risks of electromagnetic fields. Part I: Evaluation and assessment of electric and magnetic fields.

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  • 1McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment, Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF) emanating from the generation, distribution, and utilization of electricity is widespread. The major debate in recent years has focused on the possibility that exposure to EMF may result in adverse health consequences, including the development of cancer. This article provides a review and evaluation of potential health risks associated with residential and occupational exposure to EMF. In addition to reviewing data from laboratory, epidemiology, and clinical studies, we examine exposure data from field measurement surveys and exposure guidelines that have been established for EMF. Currently, the evidence in support of an association between EMF and childhood cancer is limited, although this issue warrants further investigation. Evidence of an association between EMF exposure and adult cancers, derived largely from occupational settings, is inconsistent, precluding clear conclusions. There is little evidence of an association between EMF and noncancer health effects. Epidemiological studies of EMF and population health are limited by exposure measurement error and the lack of a clear dose/response relationship in studies suggesting possible health risks. Further research is needed to clarify the ambiguous findings from present studies and to determine if EMF exposure poses a health risk.

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