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Int J Radiat Biol. 2009 Apr;85(4):294-313. doi: 10.1080/09553000902781097.

Cellular effects of extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Ematologia, Oncologia e Medicina Molecolare, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Viale Regina Elena, Rome.



The major areas of research that have characterised investigation of the impact of extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields on living systems in the past 50 years are discussed. In particular, selected studies examining the role of these fields in cancer, their effects on immune and nerve cells, and the positive influence of these ELF fields on bone and nerve cells, wound healing and ischemia/reperfusion injury are explored.


The literature indicates that there is still no general agreement on the exact biological detrimental effects of ELF fields, on the physical mechanisms that may be behind these effects or on the extent to which these effects may be harmful to humans. Nonetheless, the majority of the in vitro experimental results indicate that ELF fields induce numerous types of changes in cells. Whether or not the perturbations observed at the cellular level can be directly extrapolated to negative effects in humans is still unknown. However, the myriad of effects that ELF fields have on biological systems should not be ignored when evaluating risk to humans from these fields and, consequently, in passing appropriate legislation to safeguard both the general public and professionally-exposed workers. With regard to the positive effects of these fields, the possibility of testing further their efficacy in therapeutic protocols should also not be overlooked.

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