EMF Health-effects Research

Exposure to extremely-low-frequency electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation: cardiovascular effects in humans.

Jauchem JR

Int Arch Occup Environ Health 70(1):9-21, 1997

Cardiovascular changes in humans exposed to nonionizing radiation [including extremely-low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMFs) and radiofrequency radiation (RFR)] are reviewed. Both acute and long-term effects have been investigated. In general, if heating does not occur during exposure, current flow appears to be necessary for major cardiovascular effects to ensue, such as those due to electric shock.

Whereas most studies have revealed no acute effect of static or time-varying ELF EMFs on the blood pressure, heart rate, or electrocardiogram waveform, others have reported subtle effects on the heart rate. The possible health consequences of these results are unknown. Regarding long-term effects of ELF EMFs, reports from the former Soviet Union in the early 1960s indicated arrhythmias and tachycardia in high-voltage-switchyard workers. Subsequent studies in Western countries, however, did not confirm these findings.

These studies are limited by uncertainties regarding exposure durations and appropriate control groups. Investigations of acute cardiovascular changes in humans purposely exposed to RFR have been limited to studies of magnetic resonance imaging (which, in addition to RFR, involves static and time-varying magnetic fields). It has been concluded that such exposures, as presently performed, are not likely to cause adverse cardiovascular effects. Reports of hypertension in workers potentially exposed to high levels of RFR during accidents are considered to be incidental (due to anxiety and posttraumatic stress). Soviet investigators have also indicated that long-term RFR exposure may result in hypotension and bradycardia or tachycardia.

Other researchers, however, have been incapable of replicating these results, and some scientists have attributed the effects to chance variations and mishandling of data. In summary, studies have not yielded any obvious cardiovascular-related hazards of acute or long-term exposures to ELF EMFs or RFR at levels below current exposure standards.

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