Electromagnetic fields (EMF)

Research agenda


The International EMF Project was set up in 1996 to evaluate the potential health effects of EMF. In collaboration with the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), it completed initial international scientific reviews of possible health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and provided interim conclusions on health hazards from exposure to EMF. These reviews also identified research that had raised unresolved questions about whether exposure to low-level EMF, particularly over long periods, has any deleterious effects on human health. These reviews covered different parts of the frequency spectrum:

  • radiofrequencies (RF: > 10 MHz to 300 GHz) - Munich 1996
  • static and extremely low frequency (ELF: >0 to 300 Hz) fields) - Bologna 1997
  • intermediate frequencies (IF: >300 Hz to 10 MHz) - Maastricht 1999

For further details see Proceedings of WHO-sponsored seminars.

The first Research Agenda resulted from an ad hoc Research Coordination meeting held in Geneva 4-5 December, 1997. At this meeting, ongoing research was noted that would meet WHO's requirements for health risk assessment, and this was compared with research needs identified during the scientific reviews. The additional research still needed by WHO then formed the basis of the first Research Agenda.

In subsequent years, Research Agendas dedicated to different parts of the EMF frequency range underwent periodic review and refinement. In June 2003, a revised RF Research Agenda was developed at an ad hoc meeting of experts. A topical research agenda addressing the possibility that children may be more sensitive to EMF than adults was compiled following a WHO workshop held in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 2004. Research needs on the topic of electrical hypersensitivity were compiled following a WHO workshop in Prague in October 2004. At an ad hoc meeting of specialists in Geneva in late 2005, a composite RF Research Agenda was formed and published. Research Agendas for static fields and for Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) fields follow the research recommendations from the WHO health risk assessments performed in December 2004 and October 2005, respectively.