REVIEW article https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.986315

Front. Public Health, 20 December 2022

Julie E. McCredden1, Naomi Cook1, Steven Weller1,2 and Victor Leach1*
  • 1Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association (ORSAA), Brisbane, QLD, Australia
  • 2Centre for Environmental and Population Health, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Electromagnetic signals from everyday wireless technologies are an ever-present environmental stressor, affecting biological systems. In this article, we substantiate this statement based on the weight of evidence from papers collated within the ORSAA database (ODEB), focusing on the biological and health effects of electromagnetic fields and radiation. More specifically, the experiments investigating exposures from real-world devices and the epidemiology studies examining the effects of living near mobile phone base stations were extracted from ODEB and the number of papers showing effects was compared with the number showing no effects. The results showed that two-thirds of the experimental and epidemiological papers found significant biological effects. The breadth of biological and health categories where effects have been found was subsequently explored, revealing hundreds of papers showing fundamental biological processes that are impacted, such as protein damage, biochemical changes and oxidative stress. This understanding is targeted toward health professionals and policy makers who have not been exposed to this issue during training. To inform this readership, some of the major biological effect categories and plausible mechanisms of action from the reviewed literature are described. Also presented are a set of best practice guidelines for treating patients affected by electromagnetic exposures and for using technology safely in health care settings. In conclusion, there is an extensive evidence base revealing that significant stress to human biological systems is being imposed by exposure to everyday wireless communication devices and supporting infrastructure. This evidence is compelling enough to warrant an update in medical education and practice.


Environmental illness often comes as a surprise to scientists and doctors alike. Environmental causes for human maladies are not always featured in formal training, yet they have accompanied many man-made innovations, from perfume and paint to petrol and plastics (1). It should not be surprising then that the modern world, saturated with technology, would impose effects on human biological systems, which are built from electrochemical processes. Electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation, both natural and manmade, permeate the modern world. In particular, communications technology has become ubiquitous, with devices and transmitters placed in workplaces, homes, schools, hospitals and surrounding suburbs. The frequencies for relaying communications signals are collectively referred to as “radiofrequency” (RF). Examples of everyday technologies that use radiofrequencies include Wi-Fi routers, mobile phones, cordless phones, suburban towers, masts and panels on buildings (including hospitals), Bluetooth devices, smart meters, Fitbits, smart watches, baby monitors, game consoles and smart diapers (nappies).

The evidence base regarding the effects of ever-present electromagnetic pollution on health indicates that it acts like a stressor, placing an increasing burden on human biological systems (2, 3). However, while there have been some positive shifts in recent WHO Health topics, incorporating the effects of water and air pollution, endocrine disrupters, mercury and climate change, there has been very little focus on investigating electromagnetic pollution as an environmental stressor (4).

While much of the medical world remains ignorant regarding this environmental stressor, patients suffer (5). Such has been the clinical experience of one of the authors of this paper. People with hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields may present to hospitals or clinics with an array of complaints that may or may not be based on their underlying condition, e.g., a bone fracture or a heart condition. While waiting, or during treatment, they may ask to be separated from mobile or cordless phones. Health care workers, not having heard of the condition of electromagnetic hypersensitivity or not having an understanding of the biological effects that are associated with electromagnetic fields, can find such requests strange or confusing and are unable to respond appropriately (6). This unmet need in care settings has motivated this paper, aimed at assisting the broader health profession with an understanding of how electromagnetic fields can affect human biology and providing guidance on how to respond to electrosensitive patients.

There also exists a level of ignorance surrounding this issue across the radiation protection profession. As a retired radiation protection practitioner, one of the authors of this paper has firsthand experience of how the busy daily working life in radiation protection involves a narrow focus on sources of ionizing radiation, with very little involvement, if any, on non-ionizing radiation devices that emit RF signals. Furthermore, if the need to investigate RF exposure arises, professionals seek advice from groups like the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), trusting that these bodies are honestly applying the ethical principles and risk reduction philosophies established by the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP). The section on Public Safety Issues below discusses the unfortunate lack of precaution associated with RF technologies.

Despite the lack of official recognition, strong concerns for health and safety relating to radiofrequency emissions have recently entered the public arena. For example, in 2020, the Canton of Geneva placed a 3-year moratorium on fifth generation (5G) wireless technology (7) in response to public concerns and the lack of research into the effects of 5G on health and biodiversity. More recently, the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (8) has ruled that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been negligent in its role as protector of the public’s health over the last two decades by failing to consider the non-cancer evidence regarding adverse health effects and environmental effects of wireless technologies. Given this significant ruling, health care workers need to build an understanding of the RF exposure-induced health effects and their implications for medical practice….

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