RISK EVALUATION OF POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS FROM LOW ENERGY ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD EXPOSURE USING SENSITIVE IN VITRO METHODS
REFLEX, a project funded by the EU under the 5th Framework Programme (QLK4-CT-1999-01574), was carried out by 12 research groups from 7 European countries1 from the year 2000 to 2004. The goal of the project was to search for biological effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) in in vitro cell systems which may play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. The data obtained showed that extremely low frequency EMF (ELF-EMF) had genotoxic effects on primary cell cultures of human fibroblasts and on other cell lines. ELF-EMF generated DNA strand breaks at a significant level at a flux density as low as 35 μT. There was a strong positive correlation between both the intensity and duration of exposure and the increase in single and double DNA strand breaks and micronuclei frequencies. Chromosomal aberrations were also observed after ELF-EMF exposure of human fibroblasts. Surprisingly, genotoxic effects were only observed when cells were exposed intermittently to ELF-EMF, but not when exposed continuously. Responsiveness of fibroblasts to ELF-EMF increased with the age of the donor and in the presence of specific genetic repair defects. The effect also differed among the other types of cells examined. In particular, lymphocytes and myelocytes from adult donors were not responsive. With respect to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF), data showed that RF-EMF produced genotoxic effects in fibroblasts, HL-60 cells and granulosa cells of rats, but not in human lymphocytes.
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