Radiation Protection


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EMR Literature Survey - September 2015

Magnetic fields and childhood cancer: an epidemiological investigation of the effects of high-voltage underground cables

By: Bunch KJ, Swanson J, Vincent TJ, Murphy MF
Published in: J Radiol Prot 2015; 35 (3): 695 - 705


This is a case-control study conducted in the UK to investigate the association between the extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields (MF) from high-voltage underground cables and the risk of childhood cancer. A total of 55,525 children (cases) under the age of 15 diagnosed with childhood tumours in England and Wales were identified during the period 1962 – 2008. The cases were compared to a total of 116,815 controls matched for age, sex and the district of birth for their ELF MF exposure. The ELF MF exposure was calculated based on the distance between the nearest underground cables and the premises where the mother resided at child’s birth. The authors found no elevated risk of childhood leukaemia and no clear pattern of risks for other childhood cancers, with all levels of ELF MF exposure.


Commentary by ARPANSA

For decades now, the question on whether ELF MF exposure is attributed to the risk of childhood leukaemia continues to be investigated. Based on some positive epidemiological findings between higher than normal MF and an increased risk in childhood leukaemia ELF MF was classified as “possibly carcinogenic for humans” in 2002 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

To date, the study by Bunch et al. is the largest epidemiological study on the effects of ELF MF exposure resulting from underground high voltage power lines. The study did not find any association between ELF MF exposure and childhood cancers. It is expected that homes near underground power lines will not have higher than normal MF.

Occupational Exposure to Electric Shocks and Magnetic Fields and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Sweden

By: Fischer H et al
Published in: Epidemiology 2015; 26 (6): 824 - 830


This is a case-control study that investigated the association between electric shocks or ELF MF exposure and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). A total of 4,709 cases and 23,335 controls were included in the study. The exposures were assessed based on the occupations using job-exposure matrices. Overall, there were no associations between occupational ELF MF or electric shocks and ALS. For subjects less than 65 years old, electric shocks were associated with ALS (odds ratio (OR) of 1.22, 95% confidence interval, 95% CI = 1.03, 1.43). It was also found that for welders less than 65 years old, the OR was 1.52 (95% CI = 1.05, 2.21). The authors concluded that there is no overall higher risk of ALS in electrical occupations and provided only a weak support for association between electric shocks and ALS.


Effect of exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields on melatonin levels in calves is seasonally dependent

By: Kolbabova T et al
Published in: Sci Rep 2015; 5 : 14206


This animal study looked into the effects of ELF MF exposure on the melatonin levels in calves. Eight young calves were divided into two groups: control and exposed group. The experiment was done twice, one in summer and one in winter. For each experiment, four calves were exposed to ELF MF at the intensity of 0.39 – 0.41 microtesla (µT) which is around 250 times below the current international guidelines for public exposure (which is 200 µT), for 35 days, and saliva samples were taken regularly. It was found that in the exposed group the melatonin level was reduced in winter and increased in summer. The authors hypothesised that the ELF MF exposure may have a different effect on the melatonin level depending on the season.


Does electromagnetic hypersensitivity originate from nocebo responses? Indications from a qualitative study

By: Dieudonne M
Published in: Bioelectromagnetics 2015: in press


This is a cross-sectional study that investigated whether adverse expectations (nocebo effects) related to electromagnetic fields (EMF) are the cause to the ailments of people claiming to have electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Forty EHS individuals were interviewed (11 men and 29 women) about their symptoms. The study found that most participants had the health symptoms for a period of time before they made the connection between their ill symptoms and EMF exposure (usually through the media). The author was of the opinion that nocebo effects may reinforce the attribution to EMF exposure however they may not always be the cause of EHS.


Effects of 100 µT extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields exposure on hematograms and blood chemistry in rats

By: Lai J et al
Published in: J Radiat Res 2015: in press


This is an animal study that investigated whether exposure to ELF MF results in adverse health effects (as revealed by a blood test). A total of 128 rats were randomly assigned into a sham group or exposed group. Exposure was at a frequency of 50 Hertz and at a MF of 100 µT (half the limit of current international guidelines for public exposure), for 20 hours a day, for three months. The analysis of the blood samples did not reveal any differences between the two groups. The authors concluded that ELF MF exposure does not affect the rats’ blood characteristics.


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