Electromagnetic fields - impact on a human body

In parts of the public sphere as well as among decision-making entities, there is a certain amount of uncertainty regarding the possible health risks presented by electromagnetic fields (EMF). However, the physical effects are more rarely discussed than the frequently debated biological effects often referred to as "electric smog".

Some examples for typical sources of interference are:

  • Transmitting systems (e.g. VHF transmitters)

  • Mobile phones/smartphones/smartwatches/mobile phone transmitters

  • Electric motors and power electronics (e.g. railway traffic)

  • Ignition systems, switching contacts, fluorescent lamps

  • Portable electronic devices (e.g. laptop computers)

  • Static electricity discharges, e.g. charged persons or lightning

Regarding the interaction of electromagnetic fields and biological organisms, a distinction must be made between low-frequency (0 to 100 kHz) and high-frequency (100 kHz to 300 GHz) fields. In low-frequency ranges, electric and magnetic fields can be regarded as decoupled fields. In high-frequency ranges, an EMF’s electric and magnetic components can no longer be regarded separately. They are closely connected through physical conditions.

Regarding occupational health and safety, the European legislative has defined minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields, individual directive no. 18, following article 16 section 1 of directive 89/391/EEC) in EU directive 2004/40/EC of 29 April 2004. They relate to the protection of workers against actual or possible risks to health and safety caused by the effects of electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz) during their work, particularly in terms of established, damaging short-term effects in the human body. Causes can be induced currents, energy absorption or contact currents.