Health effects of electromagnetic fields

Current knowledge indicates short-term effects with no impact on health, but there is no scientific consensus on long-term effects.


The current context

Health studies on electromagnetic fields require a dual approach: experimental expertise (in vitro and in vivo studies) and epidemiology.

Experimental studies analyse cellular responses to electromagnetic exposure, while epidemiological studies examine the frequency of disease among exposed individuals, including effects on various aspects of health (nervous system, reproduction and development, ocular system, cancers, etc.).

In France, ANSES assesses the potential effects of electromagnetic fields on health and publishes reports on subjects such as 5G and high-voltage power lines to guide public decision-making.


Known effects

The effects of electromagnetic fields on health can vary depending on a number of factors, such as frequency, intensity of exposure and duration. Short-term effects include biological and sensory effects, as well as electrical stimulation, but long-term effects, which are less well known, are also the subject of considerable vigilance. Studies about electrohypersensitivity are also being carried out.

In the short term, the only health effects observed following exposure to radio frequencies are related to heating of biological tissues, i.e. thermal effects.

In the long term, no definite biological mechanism has been identified. In the absence of scientific consensus, uncertainties remain, especially as some studies point to a possible correlation between intensive use of mobile phones and possible forms of brain cancer such as glioma.

The government has therefore defined the 6 best ways to reduce exposure. As with low-frequency fields, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has conservatively classified this category of field as a possible carcinogen.

In the short term, the known health effects of exposure to low-frequency fields are induced currents in the human body, resulting in electrical stimulation of the nervous system. The exposure limits set by decree have been established to limit these effects.

In the long term, no biological mechanism has been identified with any certainty. However, some epidemiological studies point to a possible correlation between exposure to low frequencies and leukaemia for children.

As a precaution, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified this category of fields as possible carcinogens.

In the literature, there are many reports of people complaining of numerous symptoms that they correlate with their exposure to electromagnetic fields. This is known as electrohypersensitivity.

Although current knowledge does not make it possible to establish a link between symptoms and exposure, ANSES has carried out an expert assessment. It has recognised the reality of the pain and suffering (headaches, sleep, attention and memory problems, social isolation, etc.) experienced by people who declare themselves to be electro hypersensitive, leading them to modify their lifestyle to reduce their exposure.

Research is ongoing in France and abroad on this subject, particularly in experimental conditions that take into account the daily lives of EHS sufferers.

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Exposure to electromagnetic fields - am I in danger?

Exposure to electromagnetic fields in everyday life is considered safe within established regulatory limits. Current levels of exposure, such as relay antennas, mobile phones, Wi-Fi and electronic devices, remain well below the thresholds designed to prevent biological effects on the human body.

However, concerns about long-term effects persist, prompting us to follow the recommendations of health authorities. These concerns focus mainly on the use of mobile phones, particularly among young people who use them intensively. It is essential, for example, to make calls in well-covered areas, as mobile phones emit fewer electromagnetic fields when they receive a strong signal from the antenna.

So, despite certain preconceived ideas that criticise relay antennas in the electromagnetic field and health debate, and given that the overwhelming majority of the population use mobile terminals, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the environmental health challenges when it comes to deploying digital infrastructures.

How can I find out about my exposure to electromagnetic fields?



Start by identifying the devices emitting electromagnetic fields that you use regularly. By taking into account the length of time you use these devices and the distance from them, you can get a rough idea of your personal exposure.



You can also consult reports from competent authorities to obtain a general estimate of electromagnetic field exposure in your area. To do this, visit the website. To go even further, the EMF Observatory website provides real-time levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields.



You can ask ANFR to measure electromagnetic field exposure at your place and analyse the various sources of emissions (base stations, mobile phones, etc.) present in your home to reassure you that they comply with current standards.


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In this section, we answer the most frequently asked questions about the potential health risks associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields. You’ll find objective information, based on current scientific research, to help you better understand these risks and take steps to protect yourself.

In most cases, the electromagnetic fields present in our everyday environment, such as visible light and radio waves, pose no risk to human health. However, certain higher frequencies, such as X-rays and gamma rays, can be ionising and present health risks, such as DNA damage and harmful effects on tissues and organs.

In the case of animals, research has focused mainly on the effects of electromagnetic fields generated by high-voltage power lines and telecommunications aerials. Some studies have suggested effects on behaviour, reproduction, immune system and other parameters in animals exposed to high levels of electromagnetic fields. However, it should be noted that the results of these studies are variable and that more research is needed to reach more definitive conclusions.

If you have any specific concerns about animals and electromagnetic fields, you should consult a vet or animal health expert for appropriate advice.

Mobile phones emit radio frequencies, which are a form of electromagnetic field. To date, scientific studies have not provided conclusive evidence showing a direct link between the use of mobile phones and harmful effects on health. However, the authorities are pointing to a lack of hindsight when it comes to possible long-term effects, and are recommending rules for use such as the use of a hands-free kit or giving priority to areas with good coverage.

Scientific studies carried out to date have not conclusively demonstrated that exposure to radio frequencies from mobile phone antennas at levels complying with safety standards has any adverse effects on health. Regulatory agencies and health bodies continue to monitor research in this area.

There have been a number of scientific studies conducted on electromagnetic fields and their potential effects on human health, for example:

  • Interphone Study: This is an international epidemiological study carried out in several countries to assess the link between mobile phone use and the risk of brain tumours. The overall results of the study, published in 2010, showed no increased risk of brain tumours linked to mobile phone use. However, methodological limitations were highlighted.
  • National Toxicology Program (NTP) study: The NTP is an American toxicology research programme. In 2018, the NTP published the preliminary results of a long-term study of RF exposure on rats and mice. The results showed an increased risk of heart tumours among males exposed to high levels of radiofrequencies. However, these results are still open to debate and require further study.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC): IARC is a specialised agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In 2011, the IARC classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B), based on limited evidence and uncertainties about potential health effects.

It should be noted that research concerning electromagnetic fields and their effects is an evolving field, and new studies are regularly published. Regulators and public health organisations continue to monitor research and evaluate the available evidence to establish recommendations and guidelines.

Several regulatory and public health organisations are involved in assessing and regulating electromagnetic fields. Here are a few examples:

  • World Health Organisation (WHO): The WHO is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for public health. The WHO has established the International EMF Project, which aims to assess the potential health risks associated with electromagnetic fields and to develop guidelines.
  • International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP): The ICNIRP is an independent scientific organisation that sets international guidelines on levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields. ICNIRP recommendations are used by many countries as the basis for their exposure limits.
  • The French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES): ANSES is a French agency responsible for assessing environmental health risks. It conducts studies and issues opinions on the effects of electromagnetic fields on human health.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC): The FCC is the regulatory body for communications in the United States. It sets limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields and regulates the use of radio frequencies in the United States.
  • Public Health Agency of Canada: The Public Health Agency of Canada provides information, recommendations and advice on the effects of electromagnetic fields and the precautions to be taken to reduce exposure.

It should be noted that each country may have its own regulatory and public health agencies responsible for monitoring and regulating electromagnetic fields according to their own national standards and regulations.

In France, exposure limit values for electromagnetic fields are defined by regulatory authorities, which may issue decrees or laws (e.g. the Abeille law or decree no. 2016-1074 of 3 August 2016 on the protection of workers against the risks of electromagnetic fields). The main exposure limit values for commonly used frequencies are as follows:

  • For radio frequencies (used by mobile phones, base stations, etc.): 41 V/m for a frequency of 900 MHz and 61 V/m for a frequency of 1800 MHz for the general public. 61 V/m for a frequency of 900 MHz and 87 V/m for a frequency of 1800 MHz for exposed workers.
  • For low-frequency (50 Hz) electric and magnetic fields: 5,000 V/m for electric fields and 100 µT (microteslas) for magnetic fields for the general public. 10,000 V/m for electric fields and 500 µT for magnetic fields for exposed workers.

These limit values are based on the recommendations of the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) and take account of a certain level of safety to protect human health against thermal effects (increase in body temperature) and potential non-thermal effects. It is important to underline that these limit values apply to both continuous and short-term exposures. Additional precautions may be taken for certain sensitive populations, such as children, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.