Go to top of page

What evidence exists on the impact of anthropogenic radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on animals and plants in the environment? A systematic map protocol

Authors

Ken Karipidis, Chris Brzozek, Chhavi Raj Bhatt, Sarah Loughran & Andrew Wood 

Institutions 

ARPANSA and Swinburne University of Technology

Journal

Environmental Evidence Journal

Published

December 2021

Background

Exposure to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields (EMF), particularly from telecommunications sources, is one of the most common and fastest growing anthropogenic factors on the environment. In many countries, humans are protected from excessive RF EMF exposure by safety standards that are based on guidelines by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). The ICNIRP guidelines are based on knowledge of how RF EMF affects the human body, however, there are currently no recognised international guidelines to specifically protect animals and plants. Whether the ICNIRP guidelines for humans is adequate to provide protection to the environment is a subject of active debate. This systematic map will collate all the available evidence on whether anthropogenic RF EMF has a negative effect on plants and animals in the environment. The map will also identify gaps in knowledge, recommend future research and inform environmental and radiation protection authorities.

Method

The proposed systematic map will include peer-reviewed and grey literature published in English. The EMF—Portal, PubMed and Web of Science databases will be searched using a search string prepared by the review team and tested for comprehensiveness against a list of known relevant reviews. Once duplicates are removed, retrieved articles will be screened in three stages: title, abstract, and full text. Studies will be selected with a subject population of all plants and animals, with exposures to anthropogenic RF EMF (frequency range 100 kHz–300 GHz) compared to no or lower-level exposure, and for all outcomes related to the studied populations. Kappa statistic tests will be conducted at each stage to ensure consistency of decision-making regarding the predefined inclusion/exclusion criteria. Eligible studies will then proceed to the data extraction phase, which will extract meta-data such as bibliographic information, taxonomic information, RF EMF exposure data, outcome(s), sample size, etc. The extracted data will then be organised into a systematic map and the findings summarised by cross-tabulating key meta-data variables in heat maps, charts or other data visualization methods. The systematic map will identify gaps in knowledge, priorities for future research and potential subtopics for further analysis and/or systematic review.

Link to study