electric and magnetic fields (emfs) are invisible areas of energy, often referred to as radiation, that are associated with the use of electrical power and various forms of natural and artificial lighting. emfs are usually grouped into one of two categories based on their frequency:
- non-ionizing: low-level radiation that is generally perceived as harmless to humans
- ionizing: high-level radiation that has the potential to damage cells and DNA
- extremely low frequency (elf)
- radio frequency (rf)
- visual light
- microwave ovens
- smart home energy meters
- wireless networks (wifi)
- mobile phones
- bluetooth devices
- power lines
- ultraviolet (uv)
- some gamma rays
can electromagnetic fields be harmful to my health?
During the 1990s, most electromagnetic field research focused on extremely low-frequency exposures from conventional energy sources, such as power lines, electrical substations, or household appliances. Although some of these studies showed a possible link between emf field strength and increased risk of childhood leukemia, their findings indicated that the association was weak. the few studies that have been done in adults show no evidence of a link between exposure to electromagnetic fields and cancers in adults, such as leukemia, brain cancer, and breast cancer.
Now, in the age of cell phones, wireless routers, and the Internet of Things, all of which use emfs, concerns remain about possible connections between emfs and adverse health effects. niehs acknowledges that additional research is needed and recommends continuing education on practical ways to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Does my cell phone emit emf radiation?
Cell phones emit a form of radiofrequency radiation at the lower end of the non-ionizing radiation spectrum. Currently, scientific evidence has not conclusively linked cell phone use to any adverse human health problems, although scientists admit more research is needed.
the niehs-based national toxicology program (ntp) conducted toxicology studies in rats and mice to help clarify potential health hazards, including cancer risk, from radiofrequency radiation exposure like the one used in 2g and 3g cell phones. visit the cell phone radiofrequency radiation webpage for more information.
what if I live near a power line?
It is important to remember that the strength of a magnetic field decreases dramatically with increasing distance from the source. this means that the field strength reaching a house or structure will be significantly weaker than it was at its point of origin.
for example, a magnetic field measuring 57.5 milligauss immediately next to a 230 kilovolt transmission line measures only 7.1 milligauss at a distance of 100 feet and 1.8 milligauss at a distance of 200 feet. feet, according to the world health organization in 2010.
for more information, see the niehs educational brochure, “emf: electric and magnetic fields associated with the use of electrical energy”.