EMF Health-effects Research

Radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure and non-specific symptoms of ill health: A systematic review

Rsli M

Environ Res. Mar 20 2008

[Epub ahead of print]

This article is a systematic review of whether everyday exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) causes symptoms, and whether some individuals are able to detect low-level RF-EMF (below the ICNIRP [International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection] guidelines).

Peer-reviewed articles published before August 2007 were identified by means of a systematic literature search. Meta-analytic techniques were used to pool the results from studies investigating the ability to discriminate active from sham RF-EMF exposure. RF-EMF discrimination was investigated in seven studies including a total of 182 self-declared electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) individuals and 332 non-EHS individuals. The pooled correct field detection rate was 4.2% better than expected by chance (95% CI: -2.1 to 10.5).

There was no evidence that EHS individuals could detect presence or absence of RF-EMF better than other persons. There was little evidence that short-term exposure to a mobile phone or base station causes symptoms based on the results of eight randomized trials investigating 194 EHS and 346 non-EHS individuals in a laboratory.

Some of the trials provided evidence for the occurrence of nocebo effects. In population based studies an association between symptoms and exposure to RF-EMF in the everyday environment was repeatedly observed. This review showed that the large majority of individuals who claims to be able to detect low level RF-EMF are not able to do so under double-blind conditions. If such individuals exist, they represent a small minority and have not been identified yet.

The available observational studies do not allow differentiating between biophysical from EMF and nocebo effects.

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