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Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are present whenever and wherever electricity is generated, transmitted and used. Given electricity's unique and growing role in modern life — to light our homes, refrigerate our food, heal, diagnose, entertain, and communicate — one important question is whether exposure to EMF can have harmful health effects.
To answer this question, hundreds of scientific studies have been carried out
around the world over the last 30-plus years. Conducted at universities and
research institutions, these studies have used a variety of approaches to explore the potential health effects of EMF. Some have looked at patterns of disease in human populations, some at the effects of EMF exposure on laboratory animals, and still others at biological mechanisms that might plausibly link EMF to various diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has weighed the full body of evidence
from all these studies and classified EMF as "possibly carcinogenic," primarily
because of observations made in human populations that show an association between magnetic field exposures and childhood leukemia. The association is weak and not supported by laboratory research, but it does show up in studies time and again, so causation cannot be ruled out. Ongoing research is trying to resolve this uncertainty.
This brochure has been developed to help explain the complex issue of EMF to the general public. It covers the physical nature of electric and magnetic fields, the health research and its findings, our everyday exposures to EMF, and the conclusions reached by scientific panels and policy makers, alike.
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