Press release

IET calls for more rigour in scientific research to put an end to speculation over health risks from mobile phones and electricity pylons

16 May 2014


The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is calling for research into the health effects of low-level exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from mobile phones and electricity pylons to be more robust.  

The call coincides with the publication today of the IET’s latest ‘Biological effects of low-level electromagnetic fields’ report, which reveals that there is no conclusive evidence to indicate any harmful effects in humans or animals due to low-level exposure to EMFs from mobile phones and electricity pylons.  Given that, after examining the global scientific literature evidence, the report has reached the same conclusion for 16 years, the IET says it is time to ensure that the research which is reported by the media and scientific journals is sufficiently robust and replicable.  This will help reduce public alarm and uncertainty

Professor Tony Barker says: “Over the last 20 years there have been regular media outcries about cancer risks associated with EMFs from mobile phones and electricity pylons.  However, each time we examine the research available, there is insufficient sound scientific evidence to support this claim.  The time has come now to only publish in the public media research which implies a causal link between EMFs and adverse health effects if the original research has been replicated with the same result.

“Our report examines the results of peer reviewed epidemiological studies and other research literature on this subject.  However, one of the main problems is that scientists are often under pressure to publish their research within tight deadlines, which can result in less attention given to whether or not the research hypothesis, study design, and methodology has been adequately investigated, or its findings sufficiently challenged.  This issue is then compounded by the fact that there is little counterbalancing pressure to hold their organisations to account if this research results from their scientists are then found to be wanting.  This is far from ideal.

“Our strong recommendation is that the scientific community should carry out only robustly designed research to probe a causal link between low-level EMFs and ill-health e.g. childhood leukaemia, or other cancer and, ideally, replicate any study in an independent laboratory, and by an independent team of scientists, before publishing any positive finding.”

Are there harmful Biological Effects of low-level Electromagnetic Fields of frequencies up to 300 GHz? is published every other year by the IET’s Biological Effects Policy Advisory Group (BEPAG).  The IET remains determined to be at the forefront of the examination of the scientific evidence for any possible health effects of both occupational and general-population exposure to EMFs in order to identify any emerging hazards as early as possible.

Media enquiries to:

Robert Beahan
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7595 400912
Email: rbeahan@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • The report can be downloaded at http://www.theiet.org/factfiles/bioeffects/emf-position-page.cfm
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