German Technology Report on Possible Health Impactsof Electromagnetic Fields – Environmental Health Trust


Possible health impacts due to different frequency ranges of electromagnetic fields (HF-EMF)

Report from the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB )

Advises the German Federal Parliament

High-frequency electromagnetic fields (HF-EMF) are the basis of digital wireless communication, e.g. between WLAN routers and computers, tablets and, last but not least, mobile phones in all public places and in virtually all private homes. In the coming years, the number of EMF sources of different frequency ranges is expected to increase further. The main reason for this is the rapidly advancing, comprehensive digitalisation of almost all areas of work, life and the economy, with which mobile technologies are also associated.

TAB Working Report No. 196 summarises the current state of knowledge on possible health risks of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, in particular of mobile radio.
The aim of the report is to present the quality and thus the significance of the current state of scientific knowledge on EMF in a comprehensible way, both for policy makers and for the interested public.

State of research on possible health effects of HF-EMF

“Although a large number of scientific publications on a range of health issues have been published in the last 10 years, the progress of knowledge has been slow. Often, even in studies of high scientific quality, the presence or absence of a particular biological or health effect cannot be consistently demonstrated. The state of evidence is therefore often unclear and the need for research to clarify open questions remains high. Overall, the current state of knowledge is as follows: ”

“There is increasing evidence that HF exposure affects the behaviour of laboratory animals. In addition, there are a number of strong indications that HF-EMF increases the risk of selected tumours (heart, lung, liver, lymph). In particular, the results of two large, high-quality studies from the 20s have led to an intensive discussion of these findings. Animal studies have also found evidence that HF-EMF could have an influence on neurodegenerative diseases. Possibly, an increased number of oxygen radicals in cells under HF-EMF exposure plays a role. The evidence for this effect in cell studies is not yet convincing, but recent animal studies support this finding with limited evidence. With regard to carcinogenesis, recent animal studies may also show increased incidences. According to these studies, mice treated with a carcinogenic substance (here: ethylnitrosourea) show increased liver and lung tumours as well as increased lymphomas when the animals are exposed to HF-EMF. However, no clear dose-response relationship was found.”

“There is also evidence of some effects of HF in more recent human studies. These relate to a possible effect on sleep, although the overall evidence is insufficient. Limited evidence for an effect on sleep quality has been found only in children. Experimental studies also suggest a negative effect on the growth of neurites (elongated extensions of nerve cells). If these results can be replicated and confirmed, this would be of great importance for the development of neurodegenerative diseases, as neurites are the precursors of dendrites and axons.”

“Because of the many possible implications for neurodegenerative diseases and cognition, further research is needed to clarify these aspects.”

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