by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~

Electromagnetic fields are present everywhere in our environment but are invisible to the human eye. Electric fields can be produced by the local build-up of electric charges in the atmosphere associated with thunderstorms. They are also produced by man-made sources including X-rays, the electricity that comes out of every power socket, various kinds of higher frequency radio waves via TV antennas, computers, microwaves, radio stations or mobile phone base stations.

Effects on the general health of the public have attributed a diffuse collection of symptoms to low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields at home. Reported symptoms include headaches, anxiety, suicide and depression, nausea, fatigue and loss of libido.

Key Points

The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses both natural and human-made sources of electromagnetic fields.

Frequency and wavelength characterize an electromagnetic field. In an electromagnetic wave, these two characteristics are directly related to each other: the higher the frequency the shorter the wavelength. Ionizing radiation such as X-ray and gamma-rays consists of photons which carry sufficient energy to break molecular bonds. Photons of electromagnetic waves at power and radio frequencies have much lower energy that do not have this ability.

Electric fields exist whenever charge is present and are measured in volts per metre (V/m). Magnetic fields arise from current flow. Their flux densities are measured in microtesla or millitesla .

At radio and microwave frequencies, electric and magnetic fields are considered together as the two components of an electromagnetic wave. Power density, measured in watts per square metre (W/m2), describes the intensity of these fields.

Low frequency and high frequency electromagnetic waves affect the human body in different ways.

Electrical power supplies and appliances are the most common sources of low frequency electric and magnetic fields in our living environment. Everyday sources of radio frequency electromagnetic fields are telecommunications, broadcasting antennas and microwave ovens.

A wide range of environmental influences causes biological effects. ‘Biological effect’ does not equal ‘health hazard’. Special research is needed to identify and measure health hazards.

At low frequencies, external electric and magnetic fields induce small circulating currents within the body. In virtually all ordinary environments, the levels of induced currents inside the body are too small to produce obvious effects.

The main effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields is heating of body tissues.

There is no doubt that short-term exposure to very high levels of electromagnetic fields can be harmful to health. Current public concern focuses on possible long-term health effects caused by exposure to electromagnetic fields at levels below those required to trigger acute biological responses.

WHO’s International EMF Project was launched to provide scientifically sound and objective answers to public concerns about possible hazards of low level electromagnetic fields.

Despite extensive research, to date there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health.

The focus of international research is the investigation of possible links between cancer and electromagnetic fields, at power line and radio frequencies.


1. World Health Organization: EMF Project.

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