Can EMF exposure during development leave an imprint later in life?

Electromagn Biol Med. 2006;25(4):217-25. doi: 10.1080/15368370601034086.


People in industrialized nations live in an environment of ubiquitous electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure, both natural and anthropogenic. The intensity, variety, and geographic distribution of anthropogenic EMF exposures have grown dramatically since the mid 20th century, with many uses serving, and in close proximity to, human populations, such as electric power distribution, radio and television transmission, and more recently, personal cell phone communication units and transmitting towers. Thus, it is reasonable to ask if this EMF exposure could cause alterations in the physiology of developing organisms, since they are generally assumed to be the most sensitive to chemical stressors. In this report, we review work published beginning in the late 1980s. Initial reports indicated that exposure of chicken eggs during embryonic development to power-line electric fields of 50 and 60 Hz, at 10 V/m in air (which is frequently in locations inhabited by humans), could cause the brain tissues of the hatched chickens to respond differently in a particular test. More recently, an anecdotal report of human sensitivity to EMF has appeared that shows a health-related influence of prior exposure history to particular power-line frequencies in chemically sensitized individuals. These reports open the question of whether the ambient electromagnetic environment can leave an imprint on developing organisms and if such imprint changes have the potential for health consequences.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chickens
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Illness / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Treatment Outcome