Intrauterine effects of electromagnetic fields--(low frequency, mid-frequency RF, and microwave): review of epidemiologic studies

Teratology. 1999 Apr;59(4):292-8. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9926(199904)59:4<292::AID-TERA14>3.0.CO;2-8.


Electromagnetic radiations are named according to frequency or to wavelength (which is inversely proportional to frequency) and create electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Frequencies widely vary according to sources: high-voltage power lines, electrically heated beds, MRI, VDTs, microwave ovens, satellite, and radio/TV transmissions or cellular phone transmitters/receivers. Public concern has increased about the potential health effects of EMFs. There are arguments in favour of EMFs being biologically active, but no mechanism has been identified that explains the link between EMFs and bioeffects. Human data reviewed concern the potential reproductive effects (mainly spontaneous abortions, low birthweight and congenital malformations) of exposure to sources of EMFs: maternal residence, electrically heated beds, occupational exposure (mainly video display terminals), and medical exposures. The available epidemiologic studies all have limitations that prevent to draw clearcut conclusions on the effects of EMFs on human reproduction. EMFs are ubiquitous and unavoidable exposures. The matter of possible effects cannot be considered closed, but until our understanding of the biologic important parameters of EMFs exposures is stronger,design of new studies will be difficult and small epidemiologic studies are unlikely to provide definitive answers and should not be given high priority. No conclusion can be drawn for radiofrequencies and microwaves because of lack of data. There is no convincing evidence today that EMFs of the sort pregnant women or potential fathers meet in occupational or daily life exposures does any harm to the human reproductive process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microwaves / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects
  • Reproduction / radiation effects*