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, fact sheets, 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.
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Residential Exposure to Natural Background Radiation and Risk of Childhood Acute Leukemia in France, 1990-2009
Demoury C, Marquant F, Ielsch G, Goujon S, Debayle C, Faure L, Coste A, Laurent O, Guillevic J, Laurier D, Hémon D, Clavel J
Environ Health Perspect. 2017 Apr;125(4):714-720
This is a case-control study which investigated the link between exposure to ionising radiation from natural sources and childhood leukaemia. A total of 2,700 cases (diagnosed during the period 2002-2007) and 30,000 controls were included in the study. The exposure to radon, gamma, and total radiation were estimated using environmental exposure data, based on the child’s municipality at time of diagnosis. Overall, the study did not find any association between childhood leukaemia and exposure to natural background radiation, hence providing no support to the hypothesis that residential exposure to natural background radiation increases the risk of childhood leukaemia.
This study by Demoury et al did not find an association between childhood leukaemia and exposure to natural background radiation, whereas two older studies by Kendall et al in Switzerland and Spycher et al in the UK both found an increased risk of childhood leukaemia at a dose of 1 millisievert per year over 10 years or so. It should be noted that the study by Demoury et al did not rule out a slight association with gamma radiation at the time of birth – which is in line with the findings in the Swiss and UK studies.
All of these three studies are well conducted and are large enough to provide a statistically significant result however differences in the methodology are likely accounting for the difference in results. The two biggest methodological issues in all three studies were (a) the assessment of exposure which was based on residence estimation and not individual dosimetry, and was estimated differently in all three and (b) all three studies used retrospective registry information.
Since all three studies used registry information, other lifestyle, genetic or environmental factors (requiring interview to be determined) were not accounted for. Nevertheless the registry information eliminates the potential for recall bias. Bias due to unknown confounding factors is very unlikely to explain the entire observed effect.
In conclusion, there is currently mixed results on whether background radiation is associated with childhood leukaemia and further research is needed in this area.
Maternal cell phone use during pregnancy and child behavioral problems in five birth cohorts
Birks L, Guxens M, Papadopoulou E, Alexander J, Ballester F, Estarlich M, Gallastegi M, Ha M, Haugen M, Huss A, Kheifets L, Lim H, Olsen J, Santa-Marina L, Sudan M, Vermeulen R, Vrijkotte T, Cardis E, Vrijheid M
Environ Int 2017
This meta-analysis investigated the association between mobile phone use during pregnancy and behavioural problems in the offspring. Five cohorts from five different countries were included in the study, resulting in a total of 83,884 mother-child pairs. The information on mobile phone use was obtained via questionnaires – asked during pregnancy in three cohorts and asked when the children were seven years old in two cohorts. The children’s behaviour was analysed when their age was between four and seven years. For overall behavioural and emotional problems, no statistically significant association was found. There was an increased risk of hyperactivity/inattention problems with increased use of mobile phone during pregnancy (medium mobile phone users: odds ratio, OR = 1.11, 95% confidence intervals, 95% CI = 1.01 – 1.22; high users: OR = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.12, 1.48). The authors concluded that maternal mobile phone use during pregnancy may increase the risk of behavioural problems in the offspring.
The 2015 review by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) on “Potential Health Effects of Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields” discussed epidemiological and animal studies on adverse developmental effects of radiofrequency (RF) fields. The SCENIHR review mentions that numerous animal studies have clearly shown that RF fields cause developmental effects at exposure levels that are sufficiently high to cause significant increase in core maternal temperature (greater than 1 degree Celsius). However the SCENIHR review mentions that there were no adverse effects on development from RF fields at non-thermal exposure levels, even with the inclusion of more recent human and animal data. The SCENIHR review concluded that the weight of the evidence is strong against an effect on development at low level RF, such as when using a mobile phone. The results reported by Birks et al need further investigation.
Are media reports able to cause somatic symptoms attributed to WiFi radiation? An experimental test of the negative expectation hypothesis
Bräscher AK et. al.
Environ Res 2017; 156: 265-271
This human provocation study investigated whether exposure to negative media reports surrounding RF devices induce electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). A total of 65 participants were randomly shown a video which contained either a negative report (promoted adverse health effects of RF) or a neutral report. They were subsequently given stimulus to their hands and were asked to rate the pain level, in both conditions: no exposure and sham-exposed. It was found that participants who were shown the negative report tended to perceive themselves as being more sensitive to EMF. The authors suggested that negative media reports on RF devices (such as those broadcasted on TV) can cause one to perceive normal somatosensory sensation as being more intense, which leads to the development of nocebo effects.
Occupational exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and risk for central nervous system disease: an update of a Danish cohort study among utility workers
Pedersen C et. al.
Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2017
This cohort study looked into whether exposure to ELF MF at the workplace causes central nervous system (CNS) disease. There were a total of 32,006 men eligible for the investigation that were followed during 1982-2010. The exposure to ELF MF was assessed via a job-exposure matrix. The CNS diseases investigated included dementia, motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. The study found a statistically significant association between dementia and high exposure to ELF MF of 1 microtesla and above (incidence rate ratio = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.20-1.73).
Parkinson's disease and occupational exposures: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses
Gunnarsson LG et. al.
This is a systematic review that aimed to investigate the association between Parkinson’s disease and some common exposures in the workplace. The investigation was mainly on exposure from pesticides but electromagnetic fields (EMF) were also included. The meta-analysis of a total of 10 studies relevant to occupational EMF exposure did not find any increased risk of the disease.
Preterm birth among women living within 600 meters of high voltage overhead Power Lines: a case-control study
Sadeghi T et. al.
Environ Res 2017; 156: 265-271
This case-control study investigated the risk of preterm birth associated with living close to high voltage powerlines. A total of 285 women were included in the study, consisting of 135 cases (women with spontaneous preterm birth) and 150 controls (women with term birth). The exposure was assessed via the distance of the maternal home to the high voltage powerlines (exposed ≥ 600 meters, not exposed < 600 m). Spontaneous preterm birth and birth defect were associated with the mother living less than 600 meters from high voltage powerlines. The authors concluded that living close to high voltage powerlines may increase the risk of preterm birth.
Investigation of bias related to differences between case and control interview dates in five INTERPHONE countries
Turner MC, Sadetzki S, Langer CE, Villegas PhD R, Figuerola J, Armstrong BK, Chetrit A, Giles GG, Krewski D, Hours M, McBride ML, Parent ME, Richardson L, Siemiatycki J, Woodward A, Cardis E
Ann Epidemiol 2016; 26 (12): 827-832.e2
This paper reported the results of further analysis of the INTERPHONE study, which is an international collaborative case-control study investigating mobile phone use and tumours of the head and neck. The analysis was done on a subset of five countries out of the thirteen countries involved in the original study. The analysis found that the elimination of a possible bias may result in a stronger positive association between long-term mobile phone use (more than 10 years) and glioma, although it is not statistically significant (odds ratio, OR = 1.26; 95% confidence intervals, 95% CI = 0.90-1.78). The authors concluded that the bias due to differences in the interview dates between cases and controls have resulted in the underestimation of the risk originally reported in the INTERPHONE study.
The biggest criticism of the INTERPHONE study was its methodology, which led to many biases. The impact of selection and recall biases in a case-control study of mobile phone use has previously been investigated in separate studies by Vrijheid et al. (2009a and 2009b). This study by Turner et al. provided evidence on another possible bias.
Glioma is a highly fatal and fast-progressing disease and a rapid case ascertainment (identifying the number of cases in the period and region that is studied) was an important issue in the INTERPHONE study. This will often mean that cases are interviewed much earlier in the study comparing to controls, which results in a time lag. In the INTERPHONE Study, this resulted in an apparent increase of duration of mobile phone use as well as over-estimation of mobile phone use in controls.
Occupational exposure and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in a prospective cohort
Tom Koeman, Pauline Slottje, Leo J Schouten, Susan Peters, Anke Huss, Jan H Veldink, Hans Kromhout, Piet A van den Brandt, Roel Vermeulen
Occupational and Environmental Medicine
This case-cohort study investigated whether occupational exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields (MFs) is associated with a motor neuron disease. The study was conducted as a subset of a cohort study that included more than 120,000 subjects that were enrolled in the study in 1986 and followed for 17 years for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mortality. The subset case-cohort study included 136 ALS deaths and 4166 controls drawn randomly from the cohort (called subcohort). The information on a lifetime occupational history was obtained via questionnaires and the occupational exposure to ELF MFs of each subject was assessed via a job-exposure matrix (JEM). Information on other occupational exposure was also obtained including electrical shocks, metals, and several chemical agents. The association between high exposure to ELF MFs and ALS was found to be statistically significant only in men (hazard ratio = 2.19, 95% confidence interval = 1.02 – 4.73). The authors concluded that their study supported an association between occupational ELF-MF exposure and an increased risk of ALS mortality.
Several studies have investigated whether occupational exposure to ELF MFs is associated with neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and ALS. Meta-analyses of previous studies have reported a possible increased risk between occupational ELF fields and ALS but the results are largely inconsistent and many of the studies have methodological weaknesses, mainly in the assessment of exposure and the possibility of confounding from other occupational exposures including electric shocks and other chemical and physical agents. The current study goes a long way into addressing some of the short comings of previous studies; it is a large prospective study of the general population, it has used the best available JEM to assess occupational ELF fields and has looked at other occupational exposures. The study has some limitations which were acknowledged by the authors including that the JEM used may not truly represent the exposure experienced by the subjects. The conclusion by the authors that the study adds support for an association between occupational ELF magnetic fields and ALS mortality is valid however as acknowledged by the authors this is an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn on whether occupational ELF fields do cause ALS. Further research in this area is needed particularly in the assessment of exposure.
Analysis of mobile phone use among young patients with brain tumors in Japan
Sato Y et al.
This is a cross-sectional study investigating the prevalence of mobile phone ownership among children with brain tumours. A total of 82 children were included in the study. Information on mobile phone ownership and use was obtained via questionnaire. The study revealed that the prevalence of mobile phone ownership among those who had been diagnosed with childhood brain tumours between 2006 and 2010 in Japan was not higher than that of the country’s wider population of corresponding age.
Effect of 1.8 GHz radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on novel object associative recognition memory in mice
Wang K et al.
Sci Rep 2017; 7: 44521
This animal study investigated whether RF radiation affects memory. A total of 22 mice were divided into two groups: sham-exposed and exposed to RF at a frequency of 1.8 gigahertz (GHz), for 30 minutes/day, for 3 days. The exposure was conducted at a specific absorption rate (SAR) ranging from 2.2 to 3.3 watts per kilogram (W/kg), which is 10% - 65% above the public exposure limit in the Australian RF Standard. The study found that the exposed group had a significant increase in recognition memory compared to the sham-exposed group.