Fetal and Neonatal Effects of EMF


Prof. Carlo V. Bellieni, MD
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
University of Siena, Siena, Italy

Dr. Iole Pinto, PhD
Director, Physical Agents Laboratory
Tuscany Health and Safety Service, Siena, Italy

Prepared for the BioInitiative Working Group
September 2012

The exposure of the developing fetus and of children to electromagnetic fields (EMF) including both radiofrequency radiation (RF) used in new wireless technologies, and to extremely low frequency or power frequency fields (ELF-EMF) has raised public health concerns because of the possible effects (cancer, neurological effects, developmental disability effects, etc) from the long-term exposure to low-intensity, environmental level fields in daily life. This chapter documents some studies on RF and ELF-EMF that report bioeffects and adverse health impacts to the fetus, and young child where exposure levels are still well within the current legal limits of many nations. Several studies report adverse health effects at levels below safety standards [Kheifets and Oksuzyan, 2008; Comba and Fazzo, 2009; World Health Organization. 2007]; the evidence to date suggests that special attention should be devoted to the protection of embryos, fetuses and newborns who can be exposed to many diverse frequencies and intensities of EMF throughout their lifetimes, where the health and wellness consequences on these subjects are still scarcely explored.

The studies of fetuses and newborns are an important subset of those made on older children. Infants’ exposure to EMF has raised concern recently, and some countries have developed guidelines to limit it, by avoiding the presence of hospitals or schools within a certain range of kilometers around high EMF emission sources [http://www.emfs.info/Related+Issues/limits/].
Nevertheless, children and babies are chronically exposed to many sources of EMF, in particular at home, where they can spend much time playing with computers and other wireless-enabled devices, watching television or near electronic baby monitors that emit RF in their cribs (or sleeping areas).
These exposures are relatively new in the last two decades, and may represent a potential new carcinogen and neurotoxin, that, with chronic and indiscriminate exposure, may have health consequences in the long term.