Scientific review bodies

Authoritative scientific review bodies consist of groups of independent scientists covering a wide range of disciplines, who systematically assess research papers, draw conclusions, and make recommendations based on all the papers published.

This page summarises the various expert review bodies around the world. All major reviews are included, regardless of the viewpoint expressed, but it is important to be aware of the differing status of the various bodies.

Status Organisation or Body
Bodies with legal international status World Health Organisation (WHO)
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
Bodies with recognised international status International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER)
Bodies with legal status in UK UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
Bodies with recognised status in UK Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
Bodies with recognised status in USA National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

The broad conclusion from most scientific review bodies is that the weight of evidence is against EMFs causing health issues. However, there is one disease, childhood leukaemia, where uncertainty in the science exists.

Below are summaries of the major reviews from the authoritative scientific review bodies.

    In 2007, the WHO published Environmental Health Criteria Monograph No 238 on Extremely Low Frequency Fields.

    WHO publication

    The following are key extracts from Chapter 1 "Summary and Recommendations for further work". Chapter 1 summarises the more detailed conclusions in the remaining chapters. As well as these scientific judgements, the Monograph also contains policy recommendations.

    1.1.11 Health risk assessment

    “Chronic effects

    Scientific evidence suggesting that everyday, chronic low-intensity (above 0.3-0.4 µT) power-frequency magnetic field exposure poses a health risk is based on epidemiological studies demonstrating a consistent pattern of increased risk for childhood leukaemia. Uncertainties in the hazard assessment include the role that control selection bias and exposure misclassification might have on the observed relationship between magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia. In addition, virtually all of the laboratory evidence and the mechanistic evidence fail to support a relationship between low-level ELF magnetic fields and changes in biological function or disease status. Thus, on balance, the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal, but sufficiently strong to remain a concern.

    A number of other diseases have been investigated for possible association with ELF magnetic field exposure. These include cancers in both children and adults, depression, suicide, reproductive dysfunction, developmental disorders, immunological modifications and neurological disease.

    The scientific evidence supporting a linkage between ELF magnetic fields and any of these diseases is much weaker than for childhood leukaemia and in some cases (for example, for cardiovascular disease or breast cancer) the evidence is sufficient to give confidence that magnetic fields do not cause the disease.”

    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an agency of the World Health Organisation. Its Unit of Carcinogen Identification and Evaluation has, since 1972, periodically published Monographs which assess the evidence that various agents are carcinogenic and classify the agents accordingly.

    See the publications

    In June 2001, a Working Group met to consider static and extremely-low-frequency electric and magnetic fields. The key decision was to classify power-frequency magnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic”.
    More information about IARC 

    In 2001, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection's (ICNIRP) Standing Committee on Epidemiology published a major Review of the Epidemiological Literature on EMF and Health. The abstract is included below.

    Read the full publication

    Similar conclusions are included in ICNIRP's exposure guidelines.

    "Exposures to extremely low-frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMF) emanating from the generation, transmission, and use of electricity are a ubiquitous part of modern life. Concern about potential adverse health effects was initially brought to prominence by an epidemiologic report two decades ago from Denver on childhood cancer. We reviewed the now voluminous epidemiologic literature on EMF and risks of chronic disease and conclude the following:

    1. The quality of epidemiologic studies on this topic has improved over time and several of the recent studies on childhood leukemia and on cancer associated with occupational exposure are close to the limit of what can realistically be achieved in terms of size of study and methodological rigor.
    2. Exposure assessment is a particular difficulty of EMF epidemiology, in several respects:
      1. The exposure is imperceptible, ubiquitous, has multiple sources, and can vary greatly over time and short distances.
      2. The exposure period of relevance is before the date at which measurements can realistically be obtained and of unknown duration and induction period.
      3. The appropriate exposure metric is not known and there are no biological data from which to impute it.
    3. In the absence of experimental evidence and given the methodological uncertainties in the epidemiologic literature, there is no chronic disease for which an etiological relation to EMF can be regarded as established.
    4. There has been a large body of high quality data for childhood cancer, and also for adult leukemia and brain tumor in relation to occupational exposure. Among all the outcomes evaluated in epidemiologic studies of EMF, childhood leukemia in relation to postnatal exposures above 0.4 µT is the one for which there is most evidence of an association. The relative risk has been estimated at 2.0 (95% confidence limit: 1.27-3.13) in a large pooled analysis. This is unlikely to be due to chance but, may be, in part, due to bias. This is difficult to interpret in the absence of a known mechanism or reproducible experimental support. In the large pooled analysis only 0.8% of all children were exposed above 0.4 µT.

    Further studies need to be designed to test specific hypotheses such as aspects of selection bias or exposure. On the basis of epidemiologic findings, evidence shows an association of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with occupational EMF exposure although confounding is a potential explanation. Breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and suicide and depression remain unresolved.“

    SCHEER is the European Union's Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks. In 2016, it succeeded the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) but all the relevant documents currently existing on EMFs date from the SCENIHR era.

    In January 2024, SCHEER published a draft of their most recent opinion on low frequency EMFs inviting comments.

    Read the draft 

    The opinion of SCHEER on health effects of ELF-EMF concluded:

    “2.3 Health effects from ELF-EMF

    No systematic reviews or meta-analysis on ELF-EMF exposure and self-reported symptoms could be identified. Therefore, the SCENIHR conclusion still stands, i.e., there is no convincing evidence for a causal relationship between ELF-EMF exposure and self-reported symptoms.

    Published systematic reviews on leukaemia and ELF-EMF exposure, based mainly on case control studies, revealed that ELF-EMF exposure showed consistent, but moderate risk estimates, but there was too little evidence to establish a dose-response curve. With respect to childhood leukaemia, there is weak to moderate weight of evidence from epidemiological studies (the primary line of evidence). However, the animal models used in the majority of studies were not appropriate for studying childhood leukaemia, therefore, there is weak evidence from this line of research. Moreover, there is weak evidence from interaction mechanisms on the induction of neoplasias by ELF-EMF exposure. Consequently, overall, there is weak evidence concerning the association of ELF-EMF exposure with childhood leukaemia.

    Overall, there is moderate evidence on the association between occupational exposure to ELF-EMF and ALS, weak evidence for the association of occupational ELF-EMF exposure with Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, but only uncertain to weak evidence for residential exposure and these neurodegenerative diseases. No significant association can be established between EMF exposure and Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis disease.

    No systematic reviews or meta-analyses could be identified on exposure to ELF-EMF and neurophysiological outcomes. Therefore, it is still not possible to draw a definite conclusion on potential effects. The available systematic reviews and meta-analyses have not shown an association between ELF-EMF exposure and reproductive or pregnancy outcomes.”