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Environ Health Perspect. 1998 Nov;106(11):701-17.

Cancer risk assessment of extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields: a critical review of methodology.

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Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA 94303 USA.


This review provides a discussion of cancer risk assessment methodology pertinent to developing a strategy for extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMF). Approaches taken for chemical agents or ionizing radiation in six key topic areas are briefly reviewed, and then those areas are examined from the perspective of EMF, identifying issues to be addressed in developing a risk assessment strategy. The following recommendations are offered: 1) risk assessment should be viewed as an iterative process that informs an overall judgment as to health risk and consists of a complex of related activities incorporating both positive and negative data, tumor and nontumor end points, and human and nonhuman sources of information; 2) a hazard identification resulting in a conclusion of weak or null effects, such as may be associated with EMF, will need to assign significant weight to animal cancer bioassays conducted under defined exposure conditions as well as to human epidemiologic studies; 3) a default factor to account for possible age differences in sensitivity to carcinogenesis should be included in an EMF risk assessment; 4) lack of evidence of dose response and the apparent lack of DNA reactivity of EMF suggest that a safety (or uncertainty) factor or margin of exposure type of risk characterization may be most appropriate; and 5) an EMF risk assessment should permit at least tentative conclusions to be reached as to the limits of carcinogenic risk from exposure to EMF, and should also define an efficient research agenda aimed at clarifying uncertainties appropriate to a more complete assessment.

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