The increasing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) has raised concern, as increased exposure may result in an increased risk of childhood leukemia (CL). Besides a short introduction of CL and EMF, our article gives an evaluation of the evidence of a causal relation between EMF and CL by critically appraising the epidemiological and biological evidence. The potential impact is also estimated by the population attributable risk. The etiology of CL is largely unknown, but is probably multifactorial. EMF may be one of the environmental exposures involved. Three pooled analyses of case-control studies showed a 1.4- to 1.7-fold increased CL risk for extremely low-frequency EMF (ELF-EMF) exposure levels above 0.3 μT. Several biases may have played a role in these studies, but are unlikely to fully explain the increased risk. For effects of radiofrequency ELF evidence is lacking. None of the proposed biological mechanisms by which ELF-EMF might cause CL have been confirmed. The estimated overall population attributable risk was 1.9%, with the highest estimates in Northern America and Brazil (4.2% and 4.1%, respectively). The potential impact of EMF exposure on public health is probably limited, although in some countries exposure might be relatively high and thus might have a more substantial impact. We recommend nationwide surveys to gain more insight into the contemporary exposure levels among children. Reducing exposure from power lines near densely populated areas and schools is advised. Future epidemiological studies should focus on limiting bias.
Copyright © 2012 UICC.