IET: No strong evidence that mobiles or pylons harm your health

There continues to be no persuasive evidence that normal mobile phone use or adult exposure to pylons and power lines causes harmful health effects, such as cancer, according to Europe’s largest body of engineering and technology professionals.

The findings are published in a new Position Statement from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Its Biological Effects Policy Advisory Group (BEPAG) says that the overwhelming majority of the evidence does not indicate that normal exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields has harmful health effects.

This conclusion remains the same as that reached in all Position Statements since they were first published in 1992.

Professor Tony Barker, a consultant clinical scientist and chairman of BEPAG, said: “Every day, we are all exposed to a complex mix of low-level electromagnetic fields of different frequencies that permeate our environment.

“During the past two decades the general public has become increasingly concerned about potential adverse health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields such as from electrical power distribution and mobile phone use.

“However, for the 20 years in which we have been reviewing the evidence on this subject, there has been a reassuring consistency in that there is no persuasive evidence of harmful health effects. These conclusions are in common with those reached by the majority of other scientific bodies.”

The Position Statement is based on the review of 726 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Of these, 42 per cent covered static and low-frequencies, primarily relating to 50 and 60 Hz fields associated with power generation and distribution. 48 per cent of the papers dealt with radio-frequency fields, and 67 per cent of these were specifically related to mobile-phone frequencies.


Other findings from the Position Statement:
High-profile experimental studies that fail replication, or for which replications are never attempted, continue to be of concern. BEPAG remains of the view that scientists have a responsibility to ensure that their findings are as robust as possible before publication.

BEPAG has formed the view that pressures on scientists to publish their work may encourage the reporting of apparent effects that have not been adequately investigated.

Research institutions have a vested interest in encouraging publications from their staff but there is little counterbalancing pressure to hold organisations to account if such publications are found to be erroneous. BEPAG recommends that all research institutions operate transparent internal quality-control mechanisms to help mitigate this problem.

BEPAG is also of the view that a journal which publishes an EMF study should be under an obligation to publish a well-conducted replication study even if this fails to confirm the original findings.

About Tony Barker:
Professor Tony Barker, Chair of BEPAG, is Consultant Clinical Scientist in the Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. He is also a Fellow of the IET and of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.

Notes to editors:
The Position Statement can be downloaded at:
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The IET is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers with over 150,000 members in 127 countries.
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