Effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields on flora and fauna, Part 2 impacts: how species interact with natural and man-made EMF

Rev Environ Health. 2021 Jul 8. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2021-0050. Online ahead of print.


Ambient levels of nonionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF) have risen sharply in the last five decades to become a ubiquitous, continuous, biologically active environmental pollutant, even in rural and remote areas. Many species of flora and fauna, because of unique physiologies and habitats, are sensitive to exogenous EMF in ways that surpass human reactivity. This can lead to complex endogenous reactions that are highly variable, largely unseen, and a possible contributing factor in species extinctions, sometimes localized. Non-human magnetoreception mechanisms are explored. Numerous studies across all frequencies and taxa indicate that current low-level anthropogenic EMF can have myriad adverse and synergistic effects, including on orientation and migration, food finding, reproduction, mating, nest and den building, territorial maintenance and defense, and on vitality, longevity and survivorship itself. Effects have been observed in mammals such as bats, cervids, cetaceans, and pinnipeds among others, and on birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, microbes and many species of flora. Cyto- and geno-toxic effects have long been observed in laboratory research on animal models that can be extrapolated to wildlife. Unusual multi-system mechanisms can come into play with non-human species - including in aquatic environments - that rely on the Earth's natural geomagnetic fields for critical life-sustaining information. Part 2 of this 3-part series includes four online supplement tables of effects seen in animals from both ELF and RFR at vanishingly low intensities. Taken as a whole, this indicates enough information to raise concerns about ambient exposures to nonionizing radiation at ecosystem levels. Wildlife loss is often unseen and undocumented until tipping points are reached. It is time to recognize ambient EMF as a novel form of pollution and develop rules at regulatory agencies that designate air as 'habitat' so EMF can be regulated like other pollutants. Long-term chronic low-level EMF exposure standards, which do not now exist, should be set accordingly for wildlife, and environmental laws should be strictly enforced - a subject explored in Part 3.

Keywords: Earth’s geomagnetic fields; cell phone towers/masts/base stations; magnetoreception, radiofrequency radiation (RFR); nonionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF); plants; wildlife.

Publication types

  • Review