Exposure to Static and Extremely-Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields and Cellular Free Radicals

Electromagn Biol Med. 2019;38(4):231-248. doi: 10.1080/15368378.2019.1656645. Epub 2019 Aug 26.


This paper summarizes studies on changes in cellular free radical activities from exposure to static and extremely-low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF), particularly magnetic fields. Changes in free radical activities, including levels of cellular reactive oxygen (ROS)/nitrogen (RNS) species and endogenous antioxidant enzymes and compounds that maintain physiological free radical concentrations in cells, is one of the most consistent effects of EMF exposure. These changes have been reported to affect many physiological functions such as DNA damage; immune response; inflammatory response; cell proliferation and differentiation; wound healing; neural electrical activities; and behavior. An important consideration is the effects of EMF-induced changes in free radicals on cell proliferation and differentiation. These cellular processes could affect cancer development and proper growth and development in organisms. On the other hand, they could cause selective killing of cancer cells, for instance, via the generation of the highly cytotoxic hydroxyl free radical by the Fenton Reaction. This provides a possibility of using these electromagnetic fields as a non-invasive and low side-effect cancer therapy. Static- and ELF-EMF probably play important roles in the evolution of living organisms. They are cues used in many critical survival functions, such as foraging, migration, and reproduction. Living organisms can detect and respond immediately to low environmental levels of these fields. Free radical processes are involved in some of these mechanisms. At this time, there is no credible hypothesis or mechanism that can adequately explain all the observed effects of static- and ELF-EMF on free radical processes. We are actually at the impasse that there are more questions than answers.

Keywords: Fenton reaction; Static and extremely-low frequency electromagnetic fields; cell proliferation; evolution; free radicals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / cytology
  • Cells / metabolism*
  • Cells / radiation effects*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Free Radicals / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism


  • Fenton's reagent
  • Free Radicals
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Iron