The interaction between electromagnetic fields at megahertz, gigahertz and terahertz frequencies with cells, tissues and organisms: Risks and potential

Sergii Romanenko, Ryan Begley, Alan R. Harvey, Livia Hool, Vincent P. Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

19 Citations (Scopus)


Since regular radio broadcasts started in the 1920s, the exposure to humanmade electromagnetic fields has steadily increased. These days we are not only exposed to radio waves but also other frequencies from a variety of sources, mainly from communication and security devices. Considering that nearly all biological systems interact with electromagnetic fields, understanding the affects is essential for safety and technological progress. This paper systematically reviews the role and effects of static and pulsed radio frequencies (100-109 Hz), millimetre waves (MMWs) or gigahertz (109-1011 Hz), and terahertz (1011-1013 Hz) on various biomolecules, cells and tissues. Electromagnetic fields have been shown to affect the activity in cell membranes (sodium versus potassium ion conductivities) and non-selective channels, transmembrane potentials and even the cell cycle. Particular attention is given to millimetre and terahertz radiation due to their increasing utilization and, hence, increasing human exposure. MMWs are known to alter active transport across cell membranes, and it has been reported that terahertz radiation may interfere with DNA and cause genomic instabilities. These and other phenomena are discussed along with the discrepancies and controversies from published studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0585
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number137
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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