A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

EPA Cancer Report: Now Available

January 20, 2004

Today it may be more of historical than scientific interest, but EPA’s 1990 evaluation of EMF cancer risks is now available on the Internet at no charge.

Back then, the draft Evaluation of the Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields was a hot item. A team led by Dr. Robert McGaughy had recommended that power-frequency EMFs should be classified as “probable human carcinogens” and that RF/MW radiation be considered a “possible human carcinogen.” These conclusions were leaked to Microwave News and were later broadcast around the world (see MWN, M/J90).

The White House moved quickly to quell the controversy and commissioned another report, which, to no one’s surprise, found that there was in fact no EMF cancer risk (see MWN, N/D92). When the EPA draft report was released in late 1990, the EPA stated that it would be “inappropriate” to compare EMFs to chemical carcinogens. McGaughy’s position was later vindicated. In 1998, an expert panel assembled by the NIEHS judged ELF EMFs to be “possible human carcinogens” (see MWN, J/A98), and three years later, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made the designation official (see MWN, J/A01).

Work on the EMF report continued at EPA through the mid-1990s (see MWN, J/F98), but it was never released in final form. McGaughy, who is still at EPA, told us recently that under EPA’s current cancer guidelines, EMFs would be seen as “likely” carcinogens, but noted that any official decision would depend on an agency evaluation which has neither been done nor is planned. “Personally, I think there is something to worry about,” McGaughy said.