Book Review: Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (CRC Press)

by Marko Markov

The latest book in the CRC Press series on “Biological effects of electromagnetic fields,” initiated by BEMS members Frank Barnes and Ben Greenebaum, is edited by James Lin.  In the 421 pages of this new book, readers will find a series of papers covering a wide range of frequencies – from static magnetic fields to terahertz radiation.  At first glance, this book seems to have a mostly engineering focus, but as I read further, I found it contained important foundational material for anyone interested in bioelectromagnetics work. However, I would like to note that for me the title “Electromagnetic fields in biological systems” appears to be incorrect. The chapters in this book discussed not the EMF in biological systems, but interaction of external EMF with biological systems.

One of the chapters in this latest volume, written by Dr. N. Leitgeb, offers a very useful review of the state of the art in medical device technology, including exposure parameters and dosimetry. Dr. Leitgeb discusses both diagnostic and therapeutical devices and sources. The chapter, written by Dr. S. Ueno and Dr. H. Okano, reviews some of the key experimental studies and medical applications of static, low-frequency and pulsed magnetic fields. The authors also examine some proposed mechanisms of interaction of EMF and biological systems.

Volume editor James Lin provides the principal paper, focused on coupling mechanisms for EMF into biological systems. This much needed paper presents the physics and engineering principles behind the different ways that electromagnetic fields can interact with biological systems with an emphasis on radiofrequency dosimetry and energy absorption in anatomical models.

For me, Lin’s discussion has more value than the chapter by Dr. K.S. Nikita and Dr. A. Kiouri which treated the problems related to mobile communications. It is my personal opinion that the hazard of microwave use in cell phones and Wi-Fi system needs to focus more on the issues associated with cell phone use by children.

The chapter by Dr. R. Joshi and Dr. K. Shoenbach focuses on modeling electric fields in cells and membranes.  It contains a lot of mathematical details, which some readers may find difficult, but offers an assessment of possible temperature changes in biological systems undergoing electric pulsing. Although short, I found the section on extracting parameters from cell suspension quite useful.

In the next chapter, Dr. T. Shigemitsu and Dr. Yamazaki examine interactions of extremely low frequency EMF with biological systems in terms of dosimetry and numerical modeling.  The authors also discussed the coupling of EMF with extremely low frequency EMF.

The last chapter of the book, written by Dr. G. Wilmink and Dr. J. Grundt, treats the relatively new area of terahertz radiation: sources, applications and biological effects.  Much interesting for me was the information for the research in the last decade on the cellular effects of this “exotic” frequency range. It should be noted that the higher frequency allow direct influence on cellular organelles.

I definitely recommend this book to all scientists working in the area of bioelectromagnetics.