DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Public Health ServiceNational Institutes of HealthNational Institute ofEnvironmental Health SciencesP. O. Box 12233Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
May 4, 1999Dear Reader:In 1992, the U.S. Congress authorized the Electric and Magnetic Fields Research and PublicInformation Dissemination Program (EMF-RAPID Program) in the Energy Policy Act.The Congress instructed the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS),National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to direct andmanage a program of research and analysis aimed at providing scientific evidence to clarifythe potential for health risks from exposure to extremely low frequency electric andmagnetic fields (ELF-EMF). The EMF-RAPID Program had three basic components: 1) aresearch program focusing on health effects research, 2) information compilation andpublic outreach and 3) a health assessment for evaluation of any potential hazards arisingfrom exposure to ELF-EMF. The NIEHS was directed to oversee the health effectsresearch and evaluation, and the DOE was given the responsibility for overalladministration of funding and engineering research aimed at characterizing and mitigatingthese fields. The Director of the NIEHS was mandated upon completion of the Program toprovide this report outlining the possible human health risks associated with exposure toELF-EMF. The scientific evidence used in preparation of this report has undergoneextensive scientific and public review. The entire process was open and transparent.Anyone who wanted “to have a say” was provided the opportunity.The scientific evidence suggesting that ELF-EMF exposures pose any health risk is weak.The strongest evidence for health effects comes from associations observed in humanpopulations with two forms of cancer: childhood leukemia and chronic lymphocyticleukemia in occupationally exposed adults. While the support from individual studies isweak, the epidemiological studies demonstrate, for some methods of measuring exposure, afairly consistent pattern of a small, increased risk with increasing exposure that issomewhat weaker for chronic lymphocytic leukemia than for childhood leukemia. Incontrast, the mechanistic studies and the animal toxicology literature fail to demonstrateany consistent pattern across studies although sporadic findings of biological effects havebeen reported. No indication of increased leukemias in experimental animals has beenobserved.The lack of connection between the human data and the experimental data (animal andmechanistic) severely complicates the interpretation of these results. The human data arein the "right" species, are tied to "real life" exposures and show some consistency that isdifficult to ignore. This assessment is tempered by the observation that given the weak magnitude of these increased risks, some other factor or common source of error couldexplain these findings. However, no consistent explanation other than exposure to ELF-EMF has been identified.