Intermittent extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields cause DNA damage in a dose-dependent way

Abstract

Objectives

Epidemiological studies have reported an association between exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) and increased risk of cancerous diseases, albeit without dose–effect relationships. The validity of such findings can be corroborated only by demonstration of dose-dependent DNA-damaging effects of ELF-EMFs in cells of human origin in vitro.

Methods

Cultured human diploid fibroblasts were exposed to intermittent ELF electromagnetic fields. DNA damage was determined by alkaline and neutral comet assay.

Results

ELF-EMF exposure (50 Hz, sinusoidal, 1–24 h, 20–1,000 μT, 5 min on/10 min off) induced dose-dependent and time-dependent DNA single-strand and double-strand breaks. Effects occurred at a magnetic flux density as low as 35 μT, being well below proposed International Commission of Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines. After termination of exposure the induced comet tail factors returned to normal within 9 h.

Conclusion

The induced DNA damage is not based on thermal effects and arouses concern about environmental threshold limit values for ELF exposure.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the European Union under the programme "Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources", Key Action 4 "Environment and Health": QLK4-CT-01574.

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Correspondence to Sabine Ivancsits.

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Ivancsits, S., Diem, E., Jahn, O. et al. Intermittent extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields cause DNA damage in a dose-dependent way. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 76, 431–436 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-003-0446-5

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Keywords

  • ELF-EMF
  • 50-Hz sinusoidal
  • Intermittent exposure
  • Comet assay