Generalized EMF research using novel methods. An integrated approach: from research to risk assessment and support to risk management.

The European population is increasingly exposed to new physical and chemical agents in the environment, some of which may be damaging to health. Among these, electromagnetic fields (EMF) are one of the most widespread, and their application in new technologies continues to grow, with novel uses being actively developed and commercialised. Although there is some concern among the public and public health professionals alike about possible health effects related to EMF, results of studies to date are inconsistent.

The objectives of this project are:

  • To better understand mechanisms underlying possible health effects of EMF;
  • To better characterise current and future population levels of EMF exposure in Europe;
  • To further the state of knowledge on EMF and health;
  • To improve health risk assessment of EMF; and
  • To reinforce policy development and propose non-technological means to reduce EMF exposure.

The GERoNiMO (Generalised EMF Research using Novel Methods) project proposes an integrated approach, bringing together researchers from different disciplines, research institutions and member states to address key questions identified by recent European projects (such as the European Health Risk Assessment Network on Electromagnetic Fields Exposure (EFHRAN)) and international bodies (e.g. the World Health Organisation (WHO) International EMF Project Research Agenda)

The project proposes to build upon existing European resources (large-scale prospective cohort and case-control epidemiological studies of different populations, exposure assessment techniques, mechanistic and animal models and health impact modeling), using, where appropriate, novel methods (including systems biological, and the integration of potential biological markers and innovative exposure valuation instruments into epidemiological studies) and existing expert networks to achieve these objectives. 
GERoNiMO will, in particular, allow the investigation of potential effects of exposure to radiofrequency (RF) and intermediate frequency fields (IF) – alone and in combination with other environmental exposures – on the risks of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, behaviour, reproductive outcomes and aging.

Expected impact
The integrated approach in this multidisciplinary project will significantly improve the strength, coherence, credibility and coordination of European research into EMF and health, ultimately reducing fragmentation and improving the incorporation of evidence-based risk assessment into public health policy development and communication. Specifically, GERoNiMO will provide support to European Union (EU) and national regulatory bodies by improving reliability of research data on potential effects of EMF exposures.

It will also contribute to EU management and communication activities, following the lead of previous EU-funded networks (EMF-Net and EFHRAN), through:

  • the improved evaluation of cumulative and integrated personal exposure;
  • the evaluation of non-technological means to reduce current and predicted future exposures and their likely health impact; and
  • delivering recommendations for best practice in risk communication and management to support EU policy makers.

The project will specifically contribute to meeting the objectives of the EU FP7 Environment Theme by advancing the state of knowledge of interactions between environmental stressors (EMF and chemicals) and a variety of health outcomes, providing for enhanced and sustainable management of environmental health risks at the European level.

Current status
GERoNiMO is a five year project that started on 1 January 2014. The Kick-off meeting of the project was held at CREAL, Barcelona, on 16 and 17 of January 2014 (link to press release)

Financial support
Financial support for the study is provided by the European Union (grant agreement 603794) and local and national funding sources.