It is not yet possible to give an unambiguous answer to the question of whether electromagnetic fields can have detrimental effects on the health of workers in the long term. These are the findings of an update of the literature review carried out in 2015, in which RIVM drew the same conclusion.
Strong electromagnetic fields at the workplace, such as those caused by electric welding or radar systems, can have direct effects on the health of workers, including nerve stimulation and heating of organs. The update investigated the possible long-term effects of the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields. This mainly concerns situations involving fields that are weaker than the limits stipulated by the relevant European regulations. Such long-term effects have not been incorporated into the legislation that has protected workers in the Netherlands since 2016. When this was drawn up it was not known whether there was a link.
Scientific research has not yet proven any links between the exposure of workers and the occurrence of cancer, disorders of the nervous system or other illnesses in the long term. Indications have, however, again been found for a link between low-frequency electromagnetic fields and the extent to which the neurological disease ALS occurs. However, it is still not clear whether the electromagnetic fields are the actual cause, or other factors at the workplace, such as chemical substances or electric shocks. For other diseases of the nervous system, such as dementia and multiple sclerosis (MS), studies contradict one another or too few studies on the effects of electromagnetic fields have been carried out.
No links have been demonstrated between exposure to electromagnetic fields and the occurrence of various forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. There are still no indications for a link with breast cancer (in women).There is insufficient evidence for links between electromagnetic fields and brain tumours or leukaemia. For other forms of cancer and defects in the reproductive functions, the senses, the immune system or muscles and joints, there is a lack of well-substantiated research. This update also included research into a possible link between electromagnetic fields and accidents or mortality among workers. This yielded the first indication that accidents outside working hours occur more frequently among workers with high occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields from MRI equipment. It is still not clear whether this is connected to long or short-term exposure. Too little research has been carried out to be able to draw any conclusions about a link with general mortality.
The update was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.