Induction of DNA strand breaks by intermittent exposure to extremely-low-frequency electromagnetic fields in human diploid fibroblasts

Mutat Res. 2002 Aug 26;519(1-2):1-13. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5718(02)00109-2.


Results of epidemiological research show low association of electromagnetic field (EMF) with increased risk of cancerous diseases and missing dose-effect relations. An important component in assessing potential cancer risk is knowledge concerning any genotoxic effects of extremely-low-frequency-EMF (ELF-EMF). Human diploid fibroblasts were exposed to continuous or intermittent ELF-EMF (50Hz, sinusoidal, 24h, 1000microT). For evaluation of genotoxic effects in form of DNA single- (SSB) and double-strand breaks (DSB), the alkaline and the neutral comet assay were used. In contrast to continuous ELF-EMF exposure, the application of intermittent fields reproducibly resulted in a significant increase of DNA strand break levels, mainly DSBs, as compared to non-exposed controls. The conditions of intermittence showed an impact on the induction of DNA strand breaks, producing the highest levels at 5min field-on/10min field-off. We also found individual differences in response to ELF-EMF as well as an evident exposure-response relationship between magnetic flux density and DNA migration in the comet assay. Our data strongly indicate a genotoxic potential of intermittent EMF. This points to the need of further studies in vivo and consideration about environmental threshold values for ELF exposure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA / radiation effects*
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects*
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / radiation effects*
  • Diploidy
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Male


  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • DNA