Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2013 May;154(4):405-16. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncs255. Epub 2012 Oct 10
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies electromagnetic fields (EMFs) as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to humans that might transform normal cells into cancer cells. Owing to high utilisation of electricity in day-to-day life, exposure to power-frequency (50 or 60 Hz) EMFs is unavoidable. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by pineal gland activity in the brain that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. How man-made EMFs may influence the pineal gland is still unsolved. The pineal gland is likely to sense EMFs as light but, as a consequence, may decrease the melatonin production. In this study, more than one hundred experimental data of human and animal studies of changes in melatonin levels due to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields exposure were analysed. Then, the results of this study were compared with the International Committee of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) limit and also with the existing experimental results in the literature for the biological effect of magnetic fields, in order to quantify the effects. The results show that this comparison does not seem to be consistent despite the fact that it offers an advantage of drawing attention to the importance of the exposure limits to weak EMFs. In addition to those inconsistent results, the following were also observed from this work: (i) the ICNIRP recommendations are meant for the well-known acute effects, because effects of the exposure duration cannot be considered and (ii) the significance of not replicating the existing experimental studies is another limitation in the power-frequency EMFs. Regardless of these issues, the above observation agrees with our earlier study in which it was confirmed that it is not a reliable method to characterise biological effects by observing only the ratio of AC magnetic field strength to frequency. This is because exposure duration does not include the ICNIRP limit. Furthermore, the results show the significance of disruption of melatonin due to exposure to weak EMFs, which may possibly lead to long-term health effects in humans.