Electromagnetic fields (EMF) of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading. All populations are now exposed to varying degrees of EMF, and the levels will continue to increase as technology advances. Electromagnetic radiation has been around since the birth of the universe; light is its most familiar form. Electric and magnetic fields are part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation which extends from static electric and magnetic fields, through radiofrequency and infrared radiation, to X-rays.
As part of its charter to protect public health and in response to public concern over health effects of EMF exposure, the WHO established the International EMF Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMF in the frequency range from 0 to 300 GHz. The EMF Project encourages focused research to fill important gaps in knowledge and to facilitate the development of internationally acceptable standards limiting EMF exposure.
Key objectives of the Project are to:
- provide a coordinated international response to concerns about possible health effects of exposure to EMF,
- assess the scientific literature and make a status report on health effects,
- identify gaps in knowledge needing further research to make better health risk assessments,
- encourage a focused research programme in conjunction with funding agencies,
- incorporate the research results into WHO's Environmental Health Criteria monographs where formal health risk assessments will be made on exposure to EMF,
- facilitate the development of internationally acceptable standards for EMF exposure,
- provide information on the management of EMF protection programmes for national and other authorities, including monographs on EMF risk perception, communication and management, and
- provide advice to national authorities, other institutions, the general public and workers, about any hazards resulting from EMF exposure and any needed mitigation measures.