Residential Electromagnetic Fields Not An Apparent Threat to Human Health

December 1, 1996

WASHINGTON--Exposure to residential electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) appears to pose no serious threat to human health, according to a National Research Council (NRC) committee. The panel reviewed more than 500 studies conducted in the 17 years since researchers reported that children living near high-voltage power lines were 1.5 times more likely to develop leukemia.

WASHINGTON--Exposure to residential electric and magnetic fields(EMFs) appears to pose no serious threat to human health, accordingto a National Research Council (NRC) committee. The panel reviewedmore than 500 studies conducted in the 17 years since researchersreported that children living near high-voltage power lines were1.5 times more likely to develop leukemia.

"Research has not shown in any convincing way that EMFs commonin homes can cause health problems, and extensive laboratory testshave not shown that EMFs can damage the cell in a way that isharmful to human health," said Charles F. Stevens, MD, PhD,of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Salk Institute,who chaired the committee.

In the NRC review, no conclusive evidence emerged to link EMFsfound in homes to cancer, reproductive and development abnormalities,or learning and behavioral problems.

The NRC committee did, however, find a weak but nonetheless significantcorrelation between the incidence of childhood leukemia and proximityof large power lines. This link may result from factors otherthan EMFs, the panel said, including heavy traffic near powerlines, other types of local air pollution, and construction inolder homes that allows more pollutants to enter.