Wireless communication fields and non-specific symptoms of ill health: a literature review

Wien Med Wochenschr. 2011 May;161(9-10):240-50. doi: 10.1007/s10354-011-0883-9.


This is an update of a previous systematic review on the association between radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure and health-related quality of life that included studies published before August 2007 [1]. Since then, nine randomized trials addressed short-term exposures from close-to-body RF-EMF sources such as mobile phones, and two observational studies investigated the effects of mobile phone use on health-related quality of life. Six randomized trials addressed short-term far-field exposure arising, for instance, from mobile phone base stations, and eight studies evaluated the effects of environmental far-field RF-EMF exposure. In most of the randomized trials, no exposure-response association was observed. The sporadically reported associations did not show a consistent pattern regarding the type of symptoms or the direction of the effects (increase/decrease). Similarly, most of the recent observational studies did not show associations between RF-EMF exposure and non-specific symptoms. However, the exposure gradients were small and possible exposure misclassification is a limitation of these studies. Longitudinal studies as well as studies in children and adolescents are scarce. In summary, recent research did not indicate health-related quality of life to be affected by RF-EMF exposure in our everyday environment. Furthermore, none of the studies showed that individuals with self-reported electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) were more susceptible to RF-EMF than the rest of the population. Nevertheless, the rapid technological development and anticipated increase in exposure levels warrant the conduct of further longitudinal studies. Due to the widespread use of wireless communication technologies potential adverse health effects would have major public health consequences.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Child
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Young Adult