Electromagnetic fields in neonatal incubators: the reasons for an alert

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2019 Feb;32(4):695-699. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2017.1390559. Epub 2017 Oct 23.


Background: Neonatal incubators are important tools for sick newborns in the first few days of life. Nevertheless, their electric engine, often very close to the newborn's body, emits electromagnetic fields (EMF) to which newborns are exposed. Aim of this paper is to review the available literature on EMF exposure in incubators, and the effects of such exposures on newborns that have been investigated.

Methods: We carried out a systematic review of studies about EMF emissions produced by incubators, using Medline and Embase databases from 1993 to 2017.

Results: We retrieved 15 papers that described the EMF exposure in incubators and their biological effects on babies. EMF levels in incubators appear to be between 2 and 100 mG, depending on the distance of the mattress from the electric engine. In some cases, they exceed this range. These values interfere with melatonin production or with vagal tone. Even caregivers are exposed to high EMF, above 200 mG, when working at close contact with the incubators.

Conclusion: EMF have been described as potentially hazardous for human health, and values reported in this review are an alert to prevent babies' and caregivers' exposure when close to the incubators. A precautionary approach should be adopted in future incubator design, to prevent high exposures of newborns in incubators and of caregivers as well.

Keywords: Electricity; electromagnetic fields; incubator; newborn.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Incubators, Infant / adverse effects*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal