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Radiation literature survey
The radiation literature survey provides updates on published literature related to radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) and health.
Published literature includes articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, scientific-body reports, conference proceedings, etc.
The updates on new radiation literature that are of high quality and of public interest will be published as they arise. For each update, a short summary and a link to the abstract or to the full document (if freely available) are provided. The update may also include a commentary from ARPANSA and links to external websites for further information. The links may be considered useful at the time of preparation of the update however ARPANSA has no control over the content or currency of information on external links. Please see the ARPANSA website disclaimer.
Explanations of the more common terms used in the updates are found in the glossary.
The radiation literature that is listed in the updates is found by searching various databases and is not exhaustive.
The intention of the radiation literature survey is to provide an update on new literature related to radiation and health that may be of interest to the general public. ARPANSA does not take responsibility for any of the content in the scientific literature and is not able to provide copies of the papers that are listed.
Visit the National Library of Australia Australian Government Web Archive to access archived information no longer available on our website.
A review examines the correlation between RF EMF exposure and EHS symptoms
New Zealand Medical Journal, July 2020
This review examined the scientific evidence of a connection between exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) and non-specific symptoms by individuals who identify as suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). EHS individuals reported a wide range of non-specific health problems, which they attributed to RF EMF exposure. This study reported that short-term symptoms have been commonly examined using double-blinded provocation studies. These studies have used either typical environmental exposures (e.g. mobiles phones and wi-fi) or sham exposures on both non-EHS individuals and those that report to have EHS. The studies reported no difference in reported symptoms between real or sham exposure. These results suggest that it is the perception of exposure to RF EMF and not the exposure itself that triggers the symptoms reported by EHS individuals. The review also reported on the outcome of cohort studies and meta-analyses of cross-sectional studies that examined the long-term symptoms from RF EMF exposure. When examining the meta-analyses this review reported that lower quality studies or studies where participates were aware of their exposure more commonly reported positive associations between RF EMF exposure and EHS symptoms. In contrast, high quality cohort studies that measured exposures objectively, and compared this to the occurrences of symptoms in EHS individuals, did not demonstrate associations between RF EMF exposure and EHS symptoms. Overall, this review concluded that the symptoms experienced by EHS individuals are closely associated with perception of RF EMF exposure. This suggests that the symptoms experienced by those who report to be EHS are likely because of a nocebo response.
This review contributes to our understanding of the evidence surrounding RF EMF exposure and the occurrence of EHS symptoms. ARPANSA has previously reviewed the evidence of an association between RF EMF exposure and EHS in technical report 164 and continues to review research on EHS to stay up to date on this topic. The symptoms experienced by people who report to have EHS are real and can have disabling effect for the affected individual. However, the scientific evidence suggests that exposure to RF EMF is not the cause of these symptoms. In 2017, ARPANSA published technical report 178 on the research needs for RF EMF and health. This report outlined a number of research aims for scientific investigation that will further elucidate the connection between EHS symptoms and RF exposure.
Study investigates breast cancer gene expression and exposure to environmental radon
Peng et al
BMC Cancer, 2020
This study was the first to examine the possible association between exposure to radon and the expression of particular genes within breast cancer tumours. The study included 874 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer from two large cohort studies of nurses in the US (Nurses’ Health Study I and II). Breast cancer tumours were excised from each case during treatment and gene expression was analysed. Each participant’s radon exposure was estimated by using a combination of their geographical location and a US indoor radon model. The authors did not find any statistically significant gene expression differences in the tumour tissue between cases with high and low radon exposure. However, they did report some differences in adjacent tissue cells, but these were not statistically significant.
A previous study by the same research group also reported no significant association between risk of breast cancer and radon exposure (Vopham et al, 2017). The internal dosimetry models for radon exposure from the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) have recently been updated. These models predict how radionuclides move through the body, and which organs will receive the greatest exposure. The findings from these studies are consistent with the ICRP models that show radon and its progeny do not expose the breast to significant amounts of radiation.
It is important to note that radon exposure is an established risk factor for lung cancer, however, in Australian homes the average concentration of radon is low. For more information about radon, please see the ARPASNA factsheet on Radon exposure and health.
Ecological study on induction heating cookers shows no effect on birth outcomes in Japan
Sato et al
AIMS Public Health, June 2020
This Japanese ecological study investigated a possible association between exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from the increasing use of induction stoves between 2009 and 2014 and adverse pregnancy outcomes. The use of induction cookers was assessed based on data from a government national survey of family income and expenditure. The authors reported a positive but not statistically significant correlation between the use of induction stoves and the rate of fetal death after the 22nd week of pregnancy (p-value = 0.07). The authors concluded that there was no significant association between exposure to EMF from induction cookers and pregnancy outcomes, however, due to limitations of this ecological study other epidemiological designs should be considered to further demonstrate their safety.
Few studies have specifically examined the effects of EMF from induction cook tops or even other sources in the home on pregnancy outcomes. Typically, research has been conducted on exposure to EMF from electrical appliances in and around the home during pregnancy. However, these studies have not reported consistent results and there have been issues with their methodology. Similarly, this study by Sato et al has similar limitations, including confounding and small sample size (n=47). Overall, it is the assessment of ARPANSA and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) that based on the body of scientific evidence, exposure to EMF found in the home, including those generated by induction cookers does not increase the risk of adverse health effects, including pregnancy outcomes.
Study reports working in a power plant may flatten your batteries
Hosseinabadi et al
Journal of Occupational Health, May 2020
This cross-sectional study investigated the effects of exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMF) on occupational burnout syndrome and the severity of depression experienced and the role of oxidative stress. One hundred and fifteen power plant workers exposed to elevated ELF EMF were compared to 124 administrative personnel from a hospital who represented the unexposed group. Exposure to ELF EMF was measured at each workstation and levels of oxidative stress biomarkers were measured in blood samples taken from the subjects in the study. The authors reported statistically significant indications of oxidative stress in the power plant workers compared to administrative personnel. In addition, this group also had a higher prevalence of burnout syndrome and more severe depression.
This study makes conclusions that elevated ELF EMF from occupational exposure may lead either directly or indirectly to the prevalence of burnout syndrome and depression. The cross-sectional design of the study makes it inherently difficult to establish a causal relationship between this exposure and the studied health outcomes due to potential bias, confounding and analysing data that covers a moment or short period in time. The authors do not discuss these limitations. Apart from a lack of in-depth discussion on the influence of some of these aspects, one of the discussion points included was the hypothesis that the indirect effect could have been due to influences on oxidative stress markers. Specifically, the authors state that radical pair production is a “universally accepted mechanism” of interaction with EMF. The current body of scientific evidence, including an extensive review by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), does not support the assertion that EMFs have an effect on radical pair formation at exposure levels below international guidelines. Overall, the study provides a good starting point to expand investigations into the potential effects of EMFs on oxidative stress and its associated health outcomes; however, the results are limited in value due the weaknesses associated with the study design.
In Australia, protection from exposure to ELF EMF is provided by the guidelines prepared by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). It is the assessment of ARPANSA and international health authorities such as the World Health Organization that there is no substantiated evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to ELF EMF below the exposure limits set within the ICNIRP Guidelines.
Study shows RF EME exposure does not disturb sleep in the elderly
Danker-Hopfe et al
Environmental Research, January 2020
This experimental study investigated whether exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) from using a mobile phone affected sleep in 30 elderly males and 30 elderly females. The participants were randomly exposed for 8 hours to RF EME simulating mobile phone handsets with an average specific absorption rate (SAR) of 2 watts/kilogram (W/kg) and 6 W/kg or to a sham exposure. The authors reported statistically significant reduction in arousals, a shorter sleep latency and a shorter self-reported time awake after sleep in both males and females from exposure. These effects were higher in females. However, regardless of the gender, the authors concluded that there were no indications of sleep disturbance from RF EME exposure based on the observed effects.
Similar previous studies by the same author exposed participants to RF EME from mobile phones or wi-fi during sleep and concluded that exposure did not affect sleep quality and also found no association with sleep disturbance (Danker-Hopfe et al, 2011, 2020). The strength of this study lies in the good experimental design for controlling and comparing exposures; however, some of the observed sleep effects may be due to the high average SARs used to expose the participants combined with the very long exposure time of 8 hours at these levels. The SARs used were very high with one being at the maximum allowed public exposure limit of 2 W/kg and the other 3 times above this limit at 6 W/kg. It is difficult to relate these high exposure levels and times with typical use of mobile phone handsets. The authors are clear in considering that the small effects observed may have been due to skin thermoregulatory responses (thermal effects). The increased observation in women could also be due to differences in thermoregulation between the sexes.
The overall conclusions of this study are consistent with ARPANSA’s review of the scientific evidence that there has been no consistently demonstrated effects of RF EME exposure on sleep patterns below the public exposure limits (ARPANSA, 2014). The ARPANSA RF exposure standard RPS3 sets limits to protect the public and workers from any harmful exposure to RF EME. This standard is based on scientific research that shows the levels at which harmful effects occur and it sets limits, based on international guidelines, well below these harmful levels. The standard is designed to protect people of all ages and health status against all known adverse health effects from exposure to RF EME.
A French study investigated if mobile phone use can affected fetal growth
Boileau et al
Journal of Gynecology Obstetrics and Human Reproduction, July 2020
This cohort study investigated if maternal mobile phone use was associated with fetal development during pregnancy. The cohort included 1378children born between 2014 and 2017. The study’s assessment was based on self-reported maternal mobile phone use and hospital records of birth outcomes. The study reported that the children of mothers who used mobile phones for longer than thirty minutes per day were more likely to be in the 10th lowest fetal growth percentile (odds ratio 1.54 and 95% confidence interval of 1.03 – 2.31). The authors concluded that the results should be interpreted with caution because other indicators of fetal growth restriction, such as birth weight, were not significantly changed with mobile phone use. Further, the authors stated that their results did not account for some socioeconomic confounding factors such as housing type.
Previous studies have found no association between maternal use of mobile phones and reduction in fetal growth (Mortazavi et al, 2013 and Tsarna et al, 2019). Although, the current study reported adverse effects on fetal development their results are limited by confounding factors that were not accounted for and the conflicting outcomes from other indicators of fetal growth. A number of reviews have assessed the body of evidence of the effect of radio waves on pregnancy outcomes including fetal growth. The reviews by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), Public Health England and by ARPANSA concluded there is no substantiated evidence that radio wave exposure can effect fetal growth or other pregnancy outcomes.
Study shows the benefits of the Australian ban on commercial solaria
Gordon et al
Health Policy, April 2020
This study estimated the overall future economic and health benefit of banning commercial solaria in Australia. The study modelled the health and economic impact on the cohort of Australians aged 12-35 years in 2007, which amounted to 6.95 million people. The authors estimated the number of skin cancers and skin cancer death that would be averted due to the commercial solaria ban for this cohort and the resulting economic impact. They then compared this to similar estimates if no ban was in place. The authors reported that with the solaria ban there would be 31,009 fewer melanomas, 3017 fewer melanoma deaths and 468,249 fewer keratinocyte cancers over the lifetime of the cohort. It was also estimated that when accounting for both the loss of productivity associated with cancer and the cost of health there would be a saving of over 580 million dollars for the Australian economy. The authors concluded that banning commercial solaria is both an effective health policy and a good economic decision for government.
A previous study from the same research group (Gordon et al, 2008) estimated that, in Australia, 281 cases of melanoma, 43 melanoma related deaths, and 2572 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma were caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from indoor tanning every year prior to banning commercial solaria.
Commercial solaria were banned in all states and territories across Australia by 2016. The estimates of skin cancer morbidity and mortality presented in this study offer a compelling argument for justification of the banning measures put into place. However, because the ban applied only to commercial solaria, it is still possible for an individual to have a tanning bed for personal use. People that use solariums should be aware that exposure to UVR from tanning beds increases the risk of developing skin cancers. This is especially topical in Australia where the skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world. Further, the World Health Organization through the International Agency for Research on Cancer categorises UVR as carcinogens. The ARPANSA factsheet Solaria and tanning beds further explains the ban of commercial solaria and the risk of their use.
Spending the night next to a router – Study reports that you won’t lose any sleep
Danker-Hopfe et al
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, February 2020
This was a double-blind, sham controlled, randomised cross-over study that recorded the brain waves of 34 participants being exposed to radio waves from a Wi-Fi router during sleep. The participants were also asked about how they personally felt after each night’s sleep. Participants slept under observation for 5 nights where the first night was to allow them to adapt to the sleeping environment and the last four nights were randomly assigned as either exposed or sham exposed nights. The authors reported no statistically significant effects of a Wi-Fi exposure on the participants’ reported sleep quality or in brain waves of the macrostructures of sleep. However, the authors reported a reduction in the power of alpha waves in the microstructure during one of the five stages of sleep during exposure. The authors concluded that the results were not indicative of any sleep disturbances that occurred because of Wi-Fi exposure.
An earlier study by the same author exposed participants to radio waves from mobile phones during sleep (Danker-Hopfe et al, 2011). Similarly, this study concluded that radio wave exposure did not affect the brain wave macrostructure of the sleeping participants.
The conclusions of this study are consistent with ARPANSA’s review of the scientific evidence that there has been no consistently demonstrated effects of radio waves on sleep patterns (ARPANSA, 2014). Further, the ARPANSA RF exposure standard RPS3 sets limits to protect the public and workers from any harmful exposure to radio waves. This standard is based on scientific research that shows the levels at which harmful effects occur and it sets limits, based on international guidelines, well below these harmful levels. The standard is designed to protect people of all ages and health status against all known adverse health effects from exposure to radio waves.
Swedish study finds no association between occupational exposure to ELF EMF and acoustic neuroma
Carlberg et al
Environmental Research, August 2020
This Swedish case-control study examined the possible association between occupational exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) and the risk of acoustic neuroma. The study included 310 cases and 3485 controls. The participant’s occupational exposure to ELF EMF was assessed using a job exposure matrix and questionnaires of their job history. The study reported that exposure to ELF EMF did not increase risk of acoustic neuroma, including in the job category with the highest occupational exposure (odds radio (OR) = 1.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) of 0.6 – 1.5) or after a latency period of greater than 15 year (OR = 1.1, 95% CI of 0.6 – 1.8). The authors concluded that there was no association between occupational exposure to ELF EMF and acoustic neuroma.
One previous Swedish study also found no association between acoustic neuroma and occupational exposure to ELF EMF (Forssén et al, 2005). The results of both of these studies are consistent with ARPANSA’s messaging that there is no established evidence that low-level exposure to ELF EMF causes any health effects (link). However, with very few studies having investigated the possible association between ELF EMF exposure and acoustic neuroma, this study adds valuable insight into the body of scientific and health evidence.
There are international guidelines for exposure to ELF EMF set by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection. These guidelines set exposure limits to protect the public and workers from all known established risks of exposure to ELF EMF.
Study examines the long term use of mobile phones on sleep quality
Tettamanti et al
Environmental International March 2020
This was a prospective cohort study that used data from two groups within the larger cohort that makes up the COSMOS study to examine the effect of mobile phone use on sleep quality. The COSMOS study was initiated to evaluate a broad range of health outcomes in relation to radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure from mobile phone use. This study specifically focussed on the first two countries to complete the 4-year follow up assessment, Sweden and Finland. The analysis included 21,049 and 3,120 participants aged between 18 and 66 years who had operator data for their mobile phone use in Sweden and Finland, respectively. The sleep quality outcomes examined included daytime somnolence, sleep disturbance, insomnia, sleep latency and sleep adequacy. The authors reported that there was a small association with insomnia in the highest users of mobile phones (odds ratio (OR) was 1.24 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.03 – 1.51). No association was observed for other sleep outcomes.
Although an association with high mobile phone use and insomnia was observed, when the authors adjusted the data to account for the lower exposure to RF-EMF from the UMTS (3G) compared to the GSM (2G) network, this association was no longer there (OR was 1.09 (95% CI 0.89–1.33)). Therefore, it is possible that other factors associated with mobile phone use other than exposure to RF EMF could explain the initial result. Epidemiological studies examining possible effects of RF EMF exposure on sleep quality were considered in the review of evidence that informed the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) opinion on Potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). The evidence for sleep disruption was also considered in ARPANSA Technical Report 164: Review of Radiofrequency Health Effects Research – Scientific Literature 2000 – 2012 resulting in conclusions consistent with the SCENIHR opinion. Overall, the SCENIHR report concluded that there was no substantiated scientific evidence to support disruptions to parameters affecting sleep quality. The results of this study provide further evidence that the limits set within the ARPANSA RF standard are appropriate for protecting people from the known harmful effects of exposure to RF EME.