There is a paucity of information regarding the long-term health effects associated with exposure to static magnetic fields. Perceptual and other acute effects have been demonstrated above a threshold of about 2 T, and these form the basis for human exposure standards at present. Exposures well above this threshold are increasingly becoming more common as the technology associated with magnetic resonance imaging advances. Therefore, priority should be given to assessing the health risks associated with exposures to such fields. Studies should include a prospective cohort study investigating cancer risks of workers and patients exposed to fields in excess of 2 T, a study investigating effects on human cognitive performance from repeated exposures, and a molecular biology study investigating acute changes in genomic responses in volunteers exposed to fields of up to 8 T. Studies investigating the effects of long-term exposure on cancer, and on neurobehavioural development are also recommended using animals, where the use of transgenic models is encouraged. In addition, dosimetric studies should be conducted using high-resolution male, female and pregnant voxel phantoms, as should theoretical studies investigating the local currents induced in the eye and in the heart by movement during exposure. Finally, studies are recommended to investigate further the ability of static magnetic fields to significantly affect radical pair reactions in biological systems.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The possibilities of obtaining funding for research were discussed. While there may be some initial reluctance to fund such research, due in part to the lack of explicit public concern, WHO is able to make those responsible for funding, including governmental bodies and industry, aware of the need for this research through the International EMF programme. This programme has been particularly successful in identifying and generating funding for studies into the effects of power frequency magnetic fields and radiofrequency fields associated with mobile telephones. The participation of both governments and industry in funding was considered key, and the current UK programme into the health effects of mobile phones was held as an exemplar. It was also considered that since no research programme in any one country would be likely to be able to address all the uncertainties, an international collaborative effort was required, with different countries undertaking and providing for particular areas of research.
- Health effects
- Static magnetic fields