In 1992, the U.S. Congress authorised the Electric and Magnetic Fields Research and Public Information Dissemination Program (EMF-RAPID Program) in the Energy Policy Act (PL 102-486, Section 2118).

As part of the EMF-RAPID programme, the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) set up a working group in 1998 to examine all the evidence relating to EMFs. They expressed their conclusions using the criteria of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). IARC have five categories:

The agent is carcinogenic 
The agent is probably carcinogenic 
The agent is possibly carcinogenic 
The agent is not classifiable 
The agent is probably not carcinogenic 
No one on the working group voted for "is carcinogenic" or "probably carcinogenic". 19 members voted for "possibly carcinogenic", 9 for "not classifiable" and 1 for "probably not carcinogenic".

The Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) was mandated upon completion of the program to provide a report outlining the possible human health risks associated with exposure to ELF-EMF. This report was published in June, 1999.


“The NIEHS concludes that ELF-EMF exposure cannot be recognized as entirely safe because of weak scientific evidence that exposure may pose a leukemia hazard. In our opinion, this finding is insufficient to warrant aggressive regulatory concern. However, because virtually everyone in the United States uses electricity and therefore is routinely exposed to ELF-EMF, passive regulatory action is warranted such as a continued emphasis on educating both the public and the regulated community on means aimed at reducing exposures. The NIEHS does not believe that other cancers or non-cancer health outcomes provide sufficient evidence of a risk to currently warrant concern.”

Other NIEHS material

  • The NIEHS, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), published a public information booklet which was updated in April, 2002.
  • NIOSH also has a Web site on EMF, with various fact sheets.