Health risk assessment for exposures of children to low-frequency electric and magnetic (EM) fields in Slovenia (2018-2021)

Health risk assessment for exposures of children to low-frequency electric and magnetic (EM) fields in Slovenia (2018-2021)
Head: Prof. Tadej Kotnik, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering
Partners: Institute of Non-Ionizing Radiation and Institute of Oncology Ljubljana
Funding: Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS), Slovenia
Code: V3-1718


The project is funded by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS).

Member of University of Ljubljana

University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering

Health risk assessment for exposures of children to low-frequency electric and magnetic (EM) fields in Slovenia
Amount of financing
180.000,00 EUR

Prof. Dr. Tadej Kotnik

Research activity
Medical sciences / Public health (occupational safety)
Research Organisation

Institute of Non-Ionizing Radiation

Institute of Oncology Ljubljana


The question whether electromagnetic fields (EMF), which are generated by high-voltage power lines and other power distribution equipment, can cause an increase in the risk for getting developing kinds of cancer (especially childhood leukemia), behavioral changes, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, and several other diseases, remains unanswered. Since there remains a level of scientific uncertainty regarding the question, a high level of fear, mistrust, and resistance to these technologies is present in the public, which leads to fierce opposition to placing EMF sources in the environment.

To find the answers to these questions, the present proposal encompasses numerical dosimetry, public health, risk communication and information of the general public, as possible areas for optimization and reduction of health risks stemming from EMFs, especially in children. The project team is as multi-disciplinary as the proposal itself, comprising experts from the fields of electrical engineering, energetics, dosimetry, statistics, risk communication, and public health.

To evaluate the exposure of children (up to the age of 18) to low frequency EMFs, long-term measurements of personal exposure to magnetic fields and their higher harmonic components will be performed. Additionally, the exposure to EMFs of various frequency ranges will be determined in different environments, with special emphasis to exposure in schools and daycare facilities.
The induced electric fields in tissue during the pre- and post-natal period will be determined using numerical dosimetry for simultaneous exposure to magnetic and electric fields of the power-line frequency and their higher harmonic components up to 800 Hz.

Based on the gathered measurements of personal exposure to EMFs, measurements of time-variability of magnetic fields in various environments, numerical calculations of magnetic fields in the vicinity of high-voltage powerlines and switch-yards, the first map of exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields will be developed for the whole territory of Slovenia.

A novel algorithm will be developed for determining the long-term average exposure of children to magnetic fields, based on information on the location of residence. The algorithm will take into account the data of the power networks, data on numerical evaluation of exposure to transformer stations, high-voltage powerlines and underground cable-ways, as well as the results of long-term measurements.

An important part of the proposal is the geographical analysis of cancer burden in Slovenia with special emphasis on the proximity of high-voltage power-lines, underground power cables, and transformer substations with associated risk analysis. The cancer burden of childhood leukemias, brain tumors and all childhood cancers combined, will be determined in the span of the last 50 years, as well as its association with low-frequency magnetic fields (LF-MF). Using the Slovenian cancer registry and data on average magnetic field values in the whole territory of Slovenia, we aim to determine the increase in risk for children living in areas with LF-MF in excess of 0.4 µT, and estimate the number of cases in the last 10 years, which could be attributed to this exposure if a causal link between exposure and the emergence of the disease existed. Through the research project we aim to discover areas in Slovenia, where an increased risk of childhood cancers is present. We will determine if any part of the excess risk can be attributed to the presence of ELF is the living environment. The quantification of existing risk will allow the determination of additional risk due to planned reconstructions and extensions of the power distribution and transfer systems.

The proposal is aimed also at preparing a program for risk communication and education for the general population about the areas of EMF and their associated health risks, with a special emphasis on children. We have prepared a brochure on health risk assesment for exposure of children and youths to EMF, which is publicly available in electronic form (PDF, in Slovene only). Based on the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies (e.g. ICNIRP), guidance will be developed for regulators in the area of public health, for assistance in reducing the health risks due to EMF in Slovenia. Based on the WHO guidelines, clear baselines will be established for actions on protection from EMF, including preventative risk reduction for children and adolescents in schools and daycare facilities.


link to SICRIS

The phases of the project and their realization


Citations for bibliographic records

Valič B, Kos B, Gajšek P. Radiofrequency exposures of workers on low-power FM radio transmitters. Ann. Work Expos. Health 61: 457-467, 2017.

Gajšek P, Ravazzani P, Grellier J, Samaras T, Bakos J, Thuroczy G. Review of studies concerning electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure assessment in Europe: low frequency fields (50 Hz – 100 kHz). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 13: 1-14, 2016.

Gajšek P, Ravazzani P, Wiart J, Grellier J, Samaras T, Thuroczy G. Electromagnetic field exposure assessment in Europe radiofrequency fields (10 MHz-6 GHz). J. Expos. Sci. Environ. Epidemiol. 25: 37-44, 2015.

Kos B, Valič B, Kotnik T, Gajšek P. Induced electric fields in workers near low-frequency induction heating machines. Bioelectromagnetics 35: 222-226, 2014.

Kos B, Valič B, Kotnik T, Gajšek P. Occupational exposure assessment of magnetic fields generated by induction heating equipment – the role of spatial averaging. Phys. Med. Biol. 57: 5943-5953, 2012.

Valič B, Kos B, Gajšek P. Occupational exposure assessment on an FM mast: electric field and SAR values. Int. J. Occupat. Safety Ergonomics 18: 149-159, 2012.

Kos B, Valič B, Kotnik T, Gajšek P. Exposure assessment in front of a multi-band base station antenna. Bioelectromagnetics 32: 234-242, 2011.

Kos B, Valič B, Miklavčič D, Kotnik T, Gajšek P. Pre- and post-natal exposure of children to EMF generated by domestic induction cookers. Phys. Med. Biol. 56: 6149-6160, 2011.

Kos B, Valič B, Kotnik T, Gajšek P. Poklicna izpostavljenost elektomagnetnim sevanjem. Elektroteh. Vestn. 77: 200-207, 2010.

Valič B, Gajšek P, Miklavčič D. Current density in a model of a human body with a conductive implant exposed to ELF electric and magnetic fields. Bioelectromagnetics 30: 591-599, 2009.