Genetic damage in mammalian somatic cells exposed to extremely low frequency electro-magnetic fields: a meta-analysis of data from 87 publications (1990-2007)

Int J Radiat Biol. 2009 Mar;85(3):196-213. doi: 10.1080/09553000902748575.


Purpose: A meta-analysis was conducted to obtain a 'quantitative' estimate of the extent of genetic damage in mammalian somatic cells exposed to non-ionizing radiation emitted from extremely low frequency electro-magnetic fields (ELF-EMF) and to compare with that in unexposed control cells.

Methods: The methods used for the meta-analysis were recommended in several standard text books. Three specific variables related to ELF-EMF exposure characteristics were examined in the meta-analysis: (i) frequency (Hz), (ii) flux density (mT), and (iii) in occupationally exposed individuals.

Result and conclusions: (1) The difference between ELF-EMF-exposed and control cells as well as the 'effect size' due to ELF-EMF exposure were biologically small (although statistically significant) with very few exceptions. (2) At certain ELF-EMF exposure conditions there was a statistically significant increase in genetic damage assessed from some end-points. (3) The mean indices for chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei end-points in ELF-EMF-exposed and control cells were within the spontaneous levels reported in historical database. (4) Considerable evidence for publication bias was found in the meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromosome Aberrations / radiation effects
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange