Electromagnetic field induced biological effects in humans

Przegl Lek. 2015;72(11):636-41.


Exposure to artificial radio frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) has increased significantly in recent decades. Therefore, there is a growing scientific and social interest in its influence on health, even upon exposure significantly below the applicable standards. The intensity of electromagnetic radiation in human environment is increasing and currently reaches astronomical levels that had never before experienced on our planet. The most influential process of EMF impact on living organisms, is its direct tissue penetration. The current established standards of exposure to EMFs in Poland and in the rest of the world are based on the thermal effect. It is well known that weak EMF could cause all sorts of dramatic non-thermal effects in body cells, tissues and organs. The observed symptoms are hardly to assign to other environmental factors occurring simultaneously in the human environment. Although, there are still ongoing discussions on non-thermal effects of EMF influence, on May 31, 2011--International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)--Agenda of World Health Organization (WHO) has classified radio electromagnetic fields, to a category 2B as potentially carcinogenic. Electromagnetic fields can be dangerous not only because of the risk of cancer, but also other health problems, including electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a phenomenon characterized by the appearance of symptoms after exposure of people to electromagnetic fields, generated by EHS is characterized as a syndrome with a broad spectrum of non-specific multiple organ symptoms including both acute and chronic inflammatory processes located mainly in the skin and nervous systems, as well as in respiratory, cardiovascular systems, and musculoskeletal system. WHO does not consider the EHS as a disease-- defined on the basis of medical diagnosis and symptoms associated with any known syndrome. The symptoms may be associated with a single source of EMF or be derived from a combination of many sources. Reported symptoms associated with electromagnetic fields are characterized by the overlapping effect with other individuals with these symptoms exhibited a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations, related to exposure to a single or multiple sources of EMF. The phenomenon of electromagnetic hypersensitivity in the form of dermatological disease is associated with mastocytosis. The biopsies taken from skin lesions of patients with EHS indicated on infiltration of the skin layers of the epidermis with mastocytes and their degranulation, as well as on release anaphylactic reaction mediators such as histamine, chymase and tryptase. The number of people suffering from EHS in the world is growing describing themselves as severely dysfunctional, showing multi organ non-specific symptoms upon exposure to low doses of electromagnetic radiation, often associated with hypersensitivity to many chemical agents (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity-MCS) and/or other environmental intolerances (Sensitivity Related Illness-SRI).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Illness
  • Humans
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*