Is exposure to EMFs harmful?

Yes, it can be. Although extremely rare, and usually the result of very high, accidental exposures, low-frequency EMFs can affect the nervous system, and high-frequency EMFs can cause the body and its tissues to heat up.

The long-term effects of lower level exposure to EMFs are less well understood and much more controversial, even though many studies have been conducted (mainly on the effects of magnetic fields on animals and humans). In recent years, the safety of mobile phones, base stations, wireless computer networking, and smart meters have been of public concern. See workSMART section: Are mobile phones a danger to my health?

The Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), an independent advisory group reporting to Public Health England, has published reviews of the potential health effects of radio waves. The latest report published in 2012 concludes that the vast body of evidence indicates that radio waves below ‘guideline levels’ are not linked to brain tumours or any other forms of cancer, although it points out that the data is restricted to less than 15 years since first exposure.

These 'guideline levels' are those set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which already form the basis of public health protection in the UK and in many other countries. 

In response to the AGNIR report, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), now called Public Health England, stated: “A recommendation to follow the ICNIRP guidelines will remain central to HPA’s advice on exposures to radiofrequency (RF) fields. HPA considers the reasons set out in 2004 for recommending adoption of these guidelines in the UK remain valid.”

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.