Health effects of static magnetic fields--a review of the epidemiological evidence

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. Feb-Apr 2005;87(2-3):241-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2004.08.007.


Potential health effects of static magnetic fields have received far less attention than, for example, power frequency or radiofrequency fields. Static fields are found in certain occupational settings, e.g. in the aluminium and chloralkali industries, in arc-welding processes, and certain railways systems. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for medical diagnosis is another source. This paper summarizes the epidemiological evidence of static magnetic field exposure and long-term health effects. There are only a few epidemiological studies available, and the majority of these have focused on cancer risks. There are some reports on reproductive outcomes, and sporadic studies of other outcomes. Overall, few occupational studies have focused specifically on effects of static magnetic field exposure, and exposure assessment have consequently been poor or non-existent. Results from studies that have estimated static magnetic field exposure have not indicated any increased cancer risks, but they are generally based on small numbers of cases and crude exposure assessment. Control of confounding has been limited, and it is likely that the "healthy worker" effect have influenced the results. A few studies have reported results on reproductive outcomes among aluminium workers and MRI operators, but limitations in study designs prevent conclusions. A problem in epidemiological studies of static magnetic fields is that workers in exposed occupations are also exposed to a wide variety of other potentially harmful agents, including some known carcinogens. In conclusion, the available evidence from epidemiological studies is not sufficient to draw any conclusions about potential health effects of static magnetic field exposure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fertility / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / adverse effects*
  • Magnetics / adverse effects*
  • Metallurgy
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure*