Examining the impacts of electromagnetic fields and health

We have been examining the subject of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) carefully for a number of years. In light of technological advances, the Engineering Safety Panel has updated this fact file to ensure its contents reflect the latest guidelines on user safety. Amongst its contents, the document examines the nature of EMFs and safe levels at different frequencies, and provides links to websites with further information on this subject.

This fact file is written for professionals working in the field of EMFs. However, the paper is also of interest to medical professionals as it concludes that there is no evidence that EMFs, as used in society, cause damage to human health. Based on scientific evidence, the findings should also reassure the general public.

We support the need for ongoing research into the health effects of EMFs to ensure the continued safe use of devices. The existing evidence indicates that there is no need to take precautionary measures, that have a significant impact on lifestyle, for safety reasons.

Download our fact file for free: Electromagnetic fields and health

We urge you to read our fact file, share it with others, and  comment below to let us know your thoughts by logging in to your online IET EngX account.

  • The IET compiled the short FAQ below in response to an MP's recent request for evidence-based information relating to 5F and EMF health matters.  I hope you find the details useful:

    Is 5G harmful to human health?

    No, from the available scientific data, Public Health England supports the view that there is no evidence of an increased health risk when exposed to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) from 5G below the levels specified by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP). ICNIRP updated its EMF exposure guidelines in this area in 2020.

    Can the use of mobile phones cause cancer and other health effects?

    ICNIRP’s position is that no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use, despite considerable study of mobile phone users, conducted over decades. Similarly, it’s not been shown that heavy users of mobile phones are more likely to suffer from headache, migraine, memory loss, mood change or insomnia due to EMFs.

    Is 5G less safe than earlier mobile technology generations?

    The IET’s findings, based on the available research, are that 5G is just as safe as 4G, 3G and 2G as it meets the same safety standards as those earlier technologies. The 5G technology itself, in so far as it affects radio wave exposure, is very similar to those previous technologies.

    How can I reduce exposure to higher frequency EMFs from a mobile phone further?

    Although there is no evidence that EMFs from mobiles cause health risks, people can reduce exposure even further by:

    Using a hands-free kit or headset, or using the phone on loudspeaker

    • Keeping the phone away from the body
    • Limiting the number and length of calls made
    • Making calls where the network signal is good

    Do mobile phone base stations increase safety risks?

    No, on the contrary, more base stations reduce radio wave exposure for smartphone users. More masts provide a better network coverage, and a good signal from the network will result in lower powers from smartphones and base stations.

    Do smart-home devices increase health risks?

    There’s no evidence that exposure to radio signals from smart-home devices and sensors (WiFi, Bluetooth and similar) adversely affect people’s health. Watching video on such devices does not lead to more exposure to radio waves as such devices are only receiving and not transmitting signals.

    Are exposure levels legally enforced?

    Yes, the UK enforces the levels through the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016.

    How is compliance demonstrated for smartphones?

    This is done through testing with international standards. When passed, the manufacturers add a CE marking declaring conformity with all legal requirements including compliance with ICNIRP guidelines.

    Are wearable devices that incorporate radio transmitters, sensors and microcomputers harmful to health?

    From the available scientific data, there is no evidence of an increased health risk. Wearable devices typically operate at very low power to conserve battery life, and transmit at intervals and over short distances.

    Where can I find out more information?

    As well as the links in this FAQ, more details can be found in the IET’s reports:Allaying health concerns regarding 5G and exposure to radio waves, ‘Electromagnetic Fields and Health, plus its summary 2-page flyer.