Systematic Review of the Exposure Assessment and Epidemiology of High-Frequency Voltage Transients

Frank de Vocht, Robert G Olsen

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Conclusions of epidemiological studies describing adverse health effects as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields are not unanimous and often contradictory. It has been proposed that an explanation could be that high-frequency voltage transients [dirty electricity (DE)] which are superimposed on 50/60-Hz fields, but are generally not measured, are the real causal agent. DE has been linked to many different health and wellbeing effects, and on the basis of this, an industry selling measurement and filtering equipment is growing. We reviewed the available peer-reviewed evidence for DE as a causal agent for adverse human health effects. A literature search was performed in the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and additional publications were obtained from reference lists and from the gray literature. This search resulted in 25 publications; 16 included primary epidemiological and/or exposure data. All studies were reviewed by both authors independently, and including a re-review of studies included in a review of data available up to July 31, 2009 by one of the authors. DE has been measured differently in different studies and comparison data are not available. There is no evidence for 50 Graham/Stetzer (GS) units as a safety threshold being anything more than arbitrary. The epidemiological evidence on human health effects of DE is primarily based on, often re-used, case descriptions. Quantitative evidence relies on self-reporting in non-blinded interventions, ecological associations, and one cross-sectional cohort study of cancer risk, which does not point to DE as the causal agent. The available evidence for DE as an exposure affecting human health at present does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Article number52
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2016


  • EMF
  • dirty electricity
  • RF
  • epidemiology
  • exposure assessment
  • review


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