Short Communication

The Problem of Electrosmog Pollution: Is it Advisable to Review the ICNIRP Guidelines?

Emanuele Calabrò1,2,*

1Department of Mathematical and Informatics Sciences, Physical Sciences and Earth Sciences of Messina University, Viale Ferdinando Stagno D’ Alcontres, Messina,Italy
2Industrial Technical Institute “Verona Trento-Marconi”, Messina, Italya

Received date: 11 Aug 2017; Accepted date: 28 Sep 2017; Published date: 4 Oct 2017.

*Corresponding author: Emanuele Calabrò, Department of Mathematical and Informatics Sciences, Physical Sciences and Earth Sciences of Messina University, Viale Ferdinando Stagno D’ Alcontres, Messina, Italy, E-mail:

The development of modern technology is based on the use of various energy forms whose the most widely used is surely electricity. Low frequency electric power is produced in power stations at frequencies of 50 or 60 Hz, which is transmitted to urban centers by high voltage transmission lines. Nevertheless, these transmission lines are often located too near to buildings where humans live or work, so that they are continuously exposed to extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF-EMF) generated by the same transmission system.

Static magnetic fields (SMFs) are instead produced by direct current (DC) transport systems such as trams and electric trains, magnetic resonance imaging, industrial processes such as aluminum production or even in commonly used devices such as audio speaker components. Furthermore, strong magnetic fields of around 1 T are required in magnetically levitated trains, and flux density of up to 1.33 mT inside passenger cabins has been measured in magnetic levitation systems [1].

Finally, in the last thirty years, the advent of radio stations and wireless home devices (the prototype of which is mobile phone) has considerably increased, generating high frequency electromagnetic fields (HF-EMFs), in the radiofrequency (RF) and microwave (MW) regions.

ELF-EMFs and HF-EMFs represent non-ionizing radiations, which give rise to the so-called “electrosmog” (i.e. electromagnetic wave pollution), whose harmfulness to human health has so far been contrasting. In fact, there is a great scientific production regarding the harmful effects of exposure to EMFs.

Regarding the ELF-EMF, three publications are mainly to be mentioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), which highlighted the potential health effects of low-frequency and magneto static fields [2-3]. In particular, the International Agency for Research on Cancer [4] concluded in its study that ELF-EMF can be carcinogenic to humans. In this regard, the correlation between lymphocytic leukemia infantile and proximity to high voltage transmission lines [5] is also to be remembered.

The amount of these results has induced the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) to publish international guidelines to identify field strength limits not to be exceeded. In particular, ICNIRP recommends exposure limit to ELF-EMF of 1 mT [6] and exposure limit to SMFof400 mT [7] for occupational exposure and for general public exposure, respectively.

Furthermore, the achievement of wireless technology has induced livings to be continuously exposed to HF-EMFs. In this regard, a correlation between increased cancer risk and exposure to RFs and MWs was evidenced [8]. In particular, an assessment published in 2007 by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) regarding mobile phone radiation effects on human health highlighted that despite no significant health effect having been demonstrated, more studies concerning health effects on children are needed [9]. Several studies have shown that exposure to RF-MWs produces a neuronal response and oxidative damage to brain tissue [10,11] and may alter the DNA structure [12,13]. It has also been shown that exposure to RF-MWs result in a significant increase in reactive oxygen species and heat-shock proteins (HSP), characteristics of cellular anomalies [14]. These and other similar results induced ICNIRP to publish guidelines also for exposure to HF-EMF [15]. In particular, the reference level of power density for general public exposure to HF-EMF in the range from 400 to 2000 MHz can be obtained by the expression P = f / 200 (W/m2) [15]. Considering the frequencies of 900 and 1800 MHz generally used by GSM system for mobile phones, we obtain the exposure limits of 4.5 W/m2 and 9 W/m2, respectively

However, in recent literature, significant effects were observed in simple organic systems, using Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy techniques, even below the EMFs limits recommended by ICNIRP. FTIR spectroscopy can provide accurate information on the secondary structure of proteins in H2O-based structure or in deuterated form, in cells or in organic tissues, as largely demonstrated up to now [16-18].

In particular, significant transitions from proteins α-helix component to β-sheet features and a shift to lower frequencies of the Amide I vibration occurred in neuronal-like cells after 10 h exposure to a SMF around 2 mT [19]. These findings can be responsible for aggregation mechanisms. In addition, orientation towards an applied SMF at 200 mT was observed in Hemoglobin in aqueous solution after 3-6 h exposure [20,21].

Transitions from α-helix component to β-sheet features were also observed in Hemoglobin, in Bovine serum albumin and in neuronal-like cells after 3 h exposure to ELF-EMF around 1 mT [22-24], confirming that unfolding and aggregation occurs at EMFs intensities below the limits recommended by ICNIRP for exposure to SMF and ELF-EMF [6,7].

Finally, exposure to HF-EMF induced proteins unfolding and aggregation together with alignment towards the applied field, at the intensity around 1 W/m2 that is, below thelimits recommended by ICNIRP for exposure to HF-EMF [15]. In particular, this resultwas observed in typical proteins in aqueous solution, exposed for 3-6 h to mobile phone MWs at 900 or 1800 MHz [25-31].

The amount of these recent results leads us to hypothesize the possibility that EMFs can be a cofactor for some diseases. Indeed, the phenomenon of protein aggregation can be the precursor of various neurological disorders and diseases such as Alzheirmer, Parkinson and Huntington, because it was shown that protein aggregation in the fibrillar form (named ‘amyloid’) can be associated with signs of neurodegeneration [32-37]. In addition, aggregated can be found in some forms of anemia [38-41] and in cancer diseases, particularly in childhood cancer, whose cause is still unknown [42]. In view of these facts, we would think about the opportunity to review the ICNIRP Guidelines.

  • WHO (2006) Framework for Developing Health-Based EMF Standards. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • WHO (1984) Extremely low frequency (ELF) fields. Environmental Health Criteria; World Health Organization: Geneva, 35.
  • WHO (1987) Magnetic fields. Environmental Health Criteria; World Health Organization: Geneva, 69.
  • IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans (2002) Non-ionizing radiation, Part 1: Static and extremely low-frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic fields. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risks Hum 80: 1-395.
  • Milham S, Ossiander EM (2001) Historical evidence that residential electrification caused the emergence of the childhood leukemia peak. Med Hypotheses 56(3): 290-295.
  • ICNIRP (2010) For limiting exposure to time-varying electric and magnetic fields (1 Hz − 100 kHz). Health Phys 99(6): 818-836.
  • ICNIRP (2009) On limits of exposure to static magnetic fields. Health Physics 96(4): 504-514.
  • WHO (1993) Electromagnetic fields (300 Hz to 300 GHz). Environmental Health Criteria; World Health Organization: Geneva 137.
  • European Commission (2006) Possible effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on human health. Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks on Human Health. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission 1-58.
  • Beasond RC, Semm P (2002) Responses of neurons to an amplitude modulated microwave stimulus. Neuroscience Letters 333: 175-178.
  • Salford LG, Brun AE, Eberhardt JL, Malmgren L, Persson BR (2003) Nerve cell damage in mammalian brain after exposure to microwaves from GSM mobile phones. Environ Health Perspectives 111: 881–883.
  • Tice RR, Hook GG, Donner M, McRee DI, Guy AW (2002) Genotoxicity of radiofrequency signals. Investigation of DNA damage and micronuclei induction in cultured human blood cells. Bioelectromagnetics 23: 113-126.
  • Diem E, Schwarz C, Adlkofer F, Jahn O, Rudiger H (2005) Non-thermal DNA breakage by mobile-phone radiation (1800MHz) in human fibroblasts and in transformed GFSH-R17 rat granulosa cells in vitro. Mutat Res 583: 178-183.
  • Calabrò E, Condello S, Currò M, Ferlazzo N, Caccamo D, et al. (2012) Modulation of HSP response in SH-SY5Y cells following exposure to microwaves of a mobile phone. World J Biol Chem 3(2): 34-40.
  • ICNIRP (1998) For limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields (up to 300 GHz). Health Physics 74(4): 494-522.
  • Byler DM, Susi H (1986) Examination of the secondary structure of proteins by deconvolved FTIR spectra. Biopolymer 25: 469-487.
  • Surewicz WK, Mantsch HH (1988) New insight into protein secondary structure from resolution-enhanced infrared spectra. Biochim Biophys Acta 952: 115-130.
  • Jung C (2000) Insight into protein structure and protein-ligand recognition by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. J Mol Recognit 13: 325–351.
  • Calabrò E, Condello S, Currò M, Ferlazzo N, Caccamo D, et al. (2013) Effects of Low Intensity Static Magnetic Field on FTIR spectra and ROS production in SH-SY5Yneuronal-like cells. Bioelectromagnetics 34: 618-629.
  • Magazù S, Calabrò E, Campo S, Interdonato S (2012) New Insights into Bioprotective Effectiveness of Disaccharides: a FTIR Study of Human Haemoglobin Aqueous Solutions exposed to Static Magnetic Fields. J Biol Phys 38(1): 61-74.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2017) Induced-Orientation of Nitrogen Monoxide and Azide Ion Vibrations in Human Hemoglobin in Bidistilled Water Solution under a Static Magnetic Field. Bioelectromagnetics 38: 447-455.
  • Magazù S, Calabrò E, Campo S (2010) FTIR Spectroscopy Studies on the Bioprotective Effectiveness of Trehalose on Human Hemoglobin Aqueous Solutions under 50 Hz Electromagnetic Field Exposure. J Phys Chem B 114(37): 12144-12149.
  • Magazù S, Calabrò E (2011) Studying the Electromagnetic-induced changes of the Secondary Structure of Bovine Serum Albumin and the Bioprotective Effectiveness of Trehalose by FTIR Spectroscopy. J Phys Chem B 115(21): 6818-6826.
  • Calabrò E (2016) Competition between Hydrogen Bonding and Protein Aggregation in Neuronal-Like Cells under Exposure to 50 Hz Magnetic Field. International J Radiat Biol 92(7): 395-403.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2010) Inspections of Mobile Phone Microwaves Effects on Proteins Secondary Structure by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. J Electromagnetic Anal Appl 2(11): 607-617.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S, Campo S (2012) Microwave-induced increase of amide I and amide II vibration bands and modulating functions of sodium-chloride, sucrose and trehalose aqueous solutions: The case study of Haemoglobin. Res J Chem Environ 16 (4): 59-67.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2013) Unfolding and Aggregation of Myoglobin can be Induced by Three Hours Exposure to Mobile Phone Microwaves: a FTIR spectroscopy study, Spectroscopy Letters. An International J Rapid Commun 46(8): 583-589.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2015) A Fourier-Self-Deconvolution Analysis of β-sheet Contents in the Amide I Region of Haemoglobin Aqueous Solutions under Exposure to 900 MHz Microwaves and bioprotective effectiveness of sugars and salt solutions, Spectroscopy Letters. An International J Rapid Commun 48(10): 741-747.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2015) B Transition from α-helix to β-sheet structures occurs in myoglobin in deuterium oxide solution under exposure to microwaves (PD 044), in 29th Annual Symposium of the Protein Society. July 22-25, Barcelona, Spain.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2016) Parallel β-sheet Vibration Band Increases with Proteins Dipole Moment under Exposure to 1765 MHz Microwaves. Bioelectromagnetics 37(2): 99-107.
  • Calabrò E, Magazù S (2017) B The α-Helix Alignment of Proteins in Water Solution towards a High Frequency Electromagnetic Field: a FTIR Spectroscopy Study. Electromagnetic Biol Med 36(3): 279-288.
  • Mattson MP (1994) Calcium and neuronal injury in Alzheimer’s disease: Contributions of beta-amyloid precursor protein mismetabolism, free radicals, and metabolic compromise. Ann N Y Acad Sci 747: 50-76.
  • Offen D, Elkon H, Melamed E (2000) Apoptosis as a general cell death pathway in neurodegenerative diseases. J Neural Transm Suppl 58:153-166.
  • Dobson CM (2001) The structural basis of protein folding and its links with human disease. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 356: 133-145.
  • Brzyska M, Bacia A, Elbaum D (2001) Oxidative and hydrolytic properties of beta-amyloid. Eur J Biochem 268: 3443-3454.
  • Squier TC (2001) Oxidative stress and protein aggregation during biological aging. Exp Gerontol 36: 1539-1550.
  • Pogocki D (2003) Alzheimer’s β-amyloid peptide as a source of neurotoxic free radicals: the role of structural effects. Acta Neurobiol Exp Wars 63: 131-145.
  • Pauling L, Itano HA, Singer SJ, Wells IC (1949) Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease. Sci 110: 543-548.
  • Pintado T, Maldonado JE (1976) Ultrastructure of platelet aggregation in refractory anemia and myelomonocytic leukemia. I. Ultrastructure of aggregation in normal controls and general defects in refractory anemia and myelomonocytic leukemia. Mayo Clin Proc 51(6): 379-92.
  • Chen K, BallasSK, zHantgan RR, Kim-Shapiro DB (2004) Aggregation of Normal and Sickle Hemoglobin in High Concentration Phosphate Buffer. Bioph J 87: 4113-4121.
  • Tripette J, Alexy T, Hardy-Dessources MD, Mougenel D, Beltan E, et al. (2009) Red blood cell aggregation, aggregate strength and oxygen transport potential of blood are abnormal in both homozygous sickle cell anemia and sickle-hemoglobin C disease. Haematologica 94: 1060-1065.
  • Neale RE, Stiller CA, Bunch KJ, Milne E, Mineau GP, et al. (2013) Familial aggregation of childhood and adult cancer in the Utah genealogy. Int J Cancer 133: 2953-2960.