ELF-MF are classified by IARC as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. However studies are not conclusive and further research is needed. We intend to perform a cytogenetic biomonitoring study in EMF-exposed workers to determine whether or not ELF-EMF may induce genetic damage: an increased frequency of cytogenetic changes means that 50 Hz fields or other environmental agents in the workplace are able to damage the hereditary material and that measures should be taken to lower the exposure(s). Similar studies were already published but contained too much shortcomings to be decisive.
In the 2017-2021 BBEMG project, a cytogenetic biomonitoring will be conducted on workers from ELIA who are regularly exposed to 50 Hz electric and magnetic fields (line inspectors, maintenance personnel, switchyard workers, …) and on workers who are not particularly exposed to 50 Hz EM fields (e.g., administrative workers) and will serve as ‘non exposed’ controls. A close collaboration with the company doctor(s) and other relevant persons will help in matching exposed and control workers.
Micronucleus and comet assays will be used as they cover different kinds of genetic effects, i.e., structural and numerical chromosome aberrations (micronucleus test) and DNA damage (comet assay) (see Examples of test on cells in in vitro studies). Additional analyses of microscope slides for the micronucleus test furthermore allow investigating other endpoints, as for example gene amplifications, chromosome type aberrations and apoptosis.