A critical review of the genotoxic potential of electric and magnetic fields

Mutat Res. 1993 Jul;297(1):61-95. doi: 10.1016/0165-1110(93)90008-b.


55 published articles were identified which reported results of tests of ELF (extremely low frequency) or static electric or magnetic fields for genotoxic effects. The biological assays used spanned a wide range, including microbial systems, plants, Drosophila, mammalian and human cells in vitro and in vivo. Experimental results were grouped into four exposure categories: ELF Electric; ELF Magnetic; Static Electric; and Static Magnetic. The internal electric fields present in media (for in vitro experiments) and in the torso and extremities (for in vivo experiments) were estimated, providing an index of comparison. All experiments were critically analyzed with respect to basic data quality criteria. Experiments within each exposure category were then compared to determine if results reinforced or contradicted one another. The preponderance of evidence suggests that neither ELF nor static electric or magnetic fields have a clearly demonstrated potential to cause genotoxic effects. However, there may be genotoxic activity from exposure under conditions where phenomena auxiliary to an electric field, such as spark discharges, electrical shocks, or corona can occur. In addition, two unconfirmed reports suggest the genotoxic potential of certain chemical mutagens or ionizing radiation may be affected by co-exposure to electric or magnetic fields. Certain exposure categories are not represented or are under-represented by tests in some genotoxicity test systems that are usually included in minimal test batteries as specified by EPA for chemicals. It is suggested that consideration be given to whether additional genotoxicity testing is warranted to fill these gaps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Mutation*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / radiation effects