30th August 2019, Volume 132 Number 1501

Mark Elwood, Andrew W Wood

Health professionals have to deal responsibly with many complex health issues on which diverse viewpoints are expressed, such as immunisation, fluoridation, climate change and electromagnetic energy. On all of these…

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Summary

The issues of real or suspected health effects of radiofrequency fields, produced by cellphones, their base stations and many other devices, are complex and controversial. We believe that the most balanced and valid assessments are given by the extensive reports produced by reputable, multidisciplinary, expert groups, using established methods to assess all available published literature. These reports are freely available on websites. The scientific literature on these issues is enormous, particularly in animal and laboratory studies. Results claiming to show increased genetic damage or other biological effects are much more common in studies of low quality, whereas higher-quality studies predominantly show no significant effects. While there are many reports which in isolation suggests effects, there is no consistent evidence supporting important health effects caused by low intensities of radiofrequencies similar to those experienced by the general population. New studies need to be assessed carefully and replicated where possible.

Abstract

The issues of real or suspected health effects of radiofrequency fields, produced by cellphones, their base stations and many other devices, are complex and controversial. We believe that the most balanced and valid assessments of these issues are given by the extensive reports produced by reputable, multidisciplinary, expert groups. These use the principles of a comprehensive review to assess all available published literature and form their conclusions by consideration of the strength of the evidence from the available studies. This paper provides links to several of these reports, and shows how others can be accessed. These reports are large and complex, but freely available on websites. We summarise the most recent New Zealand report, which itself refers to and summarises many other reports. The scientific literature on these issues is enormous, particularly in animal and laboratory studies. There are some comprehensive reviews of these, demonstrating that the quality of the studies is very variable, and that, for example, results claiming to show increased genetic damage or other biological effects are much more common in studies of low quality, whereas higher-quality studies predominantly show no significant effects. Thus, while there are many reports which in isolation suggest health effects, there is no consistent evidence supporting important health effects caused by low intensities of radiofrequencies similar to those experienced by the general population. There are certainly many unanswered questions, and new studies need to be assessed carefully and replicated where possible. Thus, expert groups in several countries including New Zealand need to continue to regularly review new studies.

Author Information

Mark Elwood, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland; Andrew W Wood, Professor of Biophysics, School of Health Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Vic 3122, Australia. 

Acknowledgements

Partial support for this work was given by the Ministry of Health, New Zealand. We thank Mr Martin Gledhill, EMF Services, PO Box 17, Clyde 9341, New Zealand, for his input.

Correspondence

Mark Elwood, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142.

Correspondence Email

mark.elwood@auckland.ac.nz

Competing Interests

The authors have been involved in discussions of this topic with government and commercial organisations, including review groups and advisory groups on guidelines and standards. Professor Wood's research group receives no direct industry funding, but some members, with adjunct appointment at the University, are industry employees. The views given in this article are the authors’ own, and do not represent any other organisation or group.

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