Dr Ken Karipidis, ARPANSA’s Assistant Director of Assessment and Advice, recently attended a workshop hosted by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) to explore effects of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields on animals and plants.

The workshop discussed naturally-occurring electric and magnetic fields from the Earth and the sun as well as artificial electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields including radio waves used in mobile phone networks and radio and TV broadcasts. 

Scientific research has been conducted to investigate whether electromagnetic fields have negative effects on animals and plants in the environment. The workshop addressed research on the following topics:

  • assessment of exposure and measurement of dose from power lines and mobile communications
  • mechanisms for potential impact on plants and animals
  • effects on plants, invertebrates and vertebrates from low-frequency and higher frequency electric and magnetic fields

Workshop presentations showed that, while it is well-established that many animals and plants respond to naturally-occurring electromagnetic fields, the exact mechanism of these responses has not been established and requires further investigation. 

Impacts of artificial electromagnetic fields on plant and animal life have not been established. The workshop explored the relevance of effects shown in laboratory experiments to real life situations, noting that effects found in laboratory settings have not been demonstrated in the natural environment. Studies that have been conducted in the natural environment generally report little or no evidence of impact on plants or animals.

The international workshop was held in Munich, Germany from 5-7 November 2019. 

ARPANSA will continue to evaluate relevant research as it becomes available, working with international counterparts to ensure ongoing review of scientific evidence related to radiation and both public and environmental health. 

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