Health – Hormone system
The body functions are controlled by hormones from the hormone system (endocrine system) which is regulated by the central nervous system. Hormones are chemical messenger and signal substances which are produced in different organs of the body and distributed by the blood. They play an important role in reproduction, growth, the metabolism and they influence the psyche and human behaviour. The left figure below shows the endocrine system of the torso/trunk, the right figure exhibits the endocrine glands in the head area. Not shown are the hormones of the reproduction system (ovary, testis, uterus, placenta).
The effect of EMFs on the hormone system and the hormone balance have been investigated in many studies, the influence of low frequency radiation on the production of melatonin being of particular interest. The melatonin hormone (sleep hormone) is produced in the pineal gland and plays (as other hormones, see figure) an important role in the day-night rhythm. Melatonin secrection is strongly tied to the dark-light rhythm. It is suspected that the nocturnal generation of melatonin is reduced by low frequency fields thus causing sleep disorders. Also suspected is that melatonin has a preventive effect on carcinogenesis and that a reduction in the level of melatonin (caused by EMFs) could favour the development of breast cancer. The suspicions could not be unequivocally proven. These connections were also investigated in respect of high frequency fields. Here too, no influence could be proven. Until now knowledge on the effects of EMFs on other hormones, e.g. stress, growth or thyroid, has been very limited. In particular, there are few studies in the high frequency area. As a result a sound assessment is not yet possible.
On the whole, the provisional conclusion is that there are only a few indications that EMFs have an influence on the hormone system that is significant to health.
BioInitiative Working Group (2012). Health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. BioInitiative Report, www.bioinitiative.org. Section 13.
Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU) (2007). Hochfrequente Strahlung und Gesundheit. Bewertung von wissenschaftlichen Studien im Niedrigdosisbereich. Bern: BAFU.
Dürrenberger, G., Leuchtmann, P., Röösli, M., Siegrist, M., Sütterlin, B. (2015). Fachliteratur-Monitoring "EMF von Strom-Technologien". BFE, Bern. Publication 291030, section 220.127.116.11.
Halgamuge, M. N. (2013). Pineal melatonin level disruption in humans due to electromagnetic fields and ICNIRP limits. Radiat Prot Dosimetry 154, 4, 405-416.
Hug, K., Röösli, M. (2013). Strahlung von Sendeanlagen und Gesundheit. Bewertung von wissenschaftlichen Studien im Niedrigdosisbereich. Stand: Dezember 2012. Umwelt-Wissen Nr. 1323. Bern: BAFU.
Independent Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) (2012). Health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. U.K. Health Protection Agency, Oxfordshire. Chapter 4.3, 149-152.
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) (2010). Guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric and magnetic fields (1Hz to 100kHz). Health Physics, 99, 6, 818-836.
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection ICNIRP (2009). Exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields, bilogical effects and health consequences (100 kHz-300 GHz). Chapter II.5.2, 257-260.
Selmaoui, B., Touitou, Y. (2003). Reproducibility of the circadian rhythms of serum cortisol and melatonin in healthy subjects. A study of three different 24-h cycles over six weeks. Life Sci., 73, 3339-3349.
Szmigielski, S. (2013). Reaction of the immune system to low-level RF/MW exposures. Science of the Total Environment, 454, 393-400.
Touitou, Y., Selmaoui, B. (2012). The effects of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields on melatonin and cortisol, two marker rhythms of the circadian system. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14, 4, 381-399.