Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) are defined as those having frequencies up to 300 Hz, representing a non-ionising radiation having photon energy too weak to interact with biomolecular systems. Exposure to low-frequency electric field and magnetic field (MF) generally results in negligible energy absorption in the body. However, it is well established that ELF-MF induces biologic effects in various cellular functions. ELF-MF acting as a co-inducer can potentiate weak mutagenic signalling. The concern about possible adverse effects on human health of long-term exposure to ELF-MFs, especially at frequencies of 50 or 60 Hz generated from power lines and electric devices, has been increasing. Conversely, long-term effects of chronic exposure have been excluded from the scope of the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) because of insufficient consistent scientific evidence to fix the thresholds for such possible biological effects. The results regarding the adverse effects of ELF-MF on human or animal reproductive functions are contradictory or inconclusive. Overall conclusion of epidemiologic studies on ambient residential MF exposure consistently failed to establish a link between human adverse reproductive outcomes and chronic maternal or paternal exposure to low-frequency MFs. In animal studies, there is no compelling evidence for a causal relationship between disturbed prenatal development and ELF-MF exposure. Testicular spermatogenesis progresses through a complexly regulated cellular process involving mitosis and meiosis; this process seems to be vulnerable to external stressors, such as heat, MF exposure or chemical and physical agents. Exposure to ELF-MF did significant risk impaired implantation or the foetal development in animal studies. However, there is some consistency in the increase of minor skeletal alterations in animal experiments. The evidence derived from recent studies in male mice demonstrates that ELF-MF exposure is involved with an increase in the frequency of apoptosis in spermatogenic cells. Those results suggest that exposure to MF is related to possible cytogenetic effects on testicular germ cells and therefore may negatively affect reproduction. This chapter intends to present an overview on the effects of ELF-EMF exposure on the reproductive function and a plausible mechanism in rodent species.
Part of the book: Insights from Animal Reproduction