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August 5, 1992

Epidemiological and Laboratory Studies of Power Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields

Author Affiliations

From the Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, Calif.

JAMA. 1992;268(5):625-629. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490050073029

A LONG history of lore suggests that magnetism and electricity influence human health, generally for the better. For example, more than 200 years ago, Dr Anton Mesmer attracted worldwide attention with his claim to cure a variety of diseases through exposure to magnetism (and thus, "Mesmerism").1 Reports are now appearing that magnetic fields may be harmful to health. Whether 200 years from now our progeny will look back at this concern as superstition, as we do at Mesmerism, or as the discovery of a new field of health science, is not yet clear.

BACKGROUND  Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) surround all electrical conductors, including power lines, household wiring, and appliances. There are two components to EMF, electrical and magnetic, that under usual circumstances occur together, but the magnitude of each varies independently. Since the magnitude of the electric field component is determined by voltage, the electric fields are generally