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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 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.
ICNIRP statement on the 2013 human exposure guidelines for lasers
Health Physics, April 2020
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has produced a statement on its 2013 laser exposure guidelines. The statement provides clarification and additional guidance for application of the guidelines. While this statement provides further information and guidance on the application of the laser guidelines, it does not amend the exposure limits. The statement also mentions ICNIRP’s intentions to update the laser guidelines at a later date with an outline of additional data and research that may assist in informing the revision of exposure limits.
In Australia, the use of lasers by the public that emit light that exceeds 1 milliwatt is prohibited. However, lasers that are more powerful are used in many industries including the medical, cosmetic, construction and entertainment industries. The use of lasers in these settings is regulated by the Australian State or Territories where the activity takes place through either specific legislation or though Work Health and Safety requirements. There are also a number of Australian and New Zealand standards for the safe use of lasers (see ARPANSA technical report 182). ARPANSA provides information on laser safety. ARPANSA recognises the importance of ICNIRP’s guidelines and further research for strengthening knowledge about laser hazards.
ICNIRP statement on the potential health effects of Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
Health Physics, April 2020
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) have produced a statement on the safety of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The statement assesses evidence of health effects from a range of LEDs and discusses a range of factors that could influence the potential hazard. These include viewing distance and duration, brightness, glare and specific properties of their emission such as infrared (IR), ultraviolet (UV), and blue-rich light content and correlated colour temperature (CCT). The statement indicates that LED lighting installed in accordance with good lighting principles should pose no more risk of eye damage than traditional lighting sources. While the long-term effects of LEDs, particularly blue-rich types, are not fully known, there is some evidence that children and the elderly are more sensitive and no health risk is expected under reasonable viewing conditions. While there is also some community concern of the potential hazard of exposure to bright LEDs from computer and/or mobile phone displays, as long as these screens remain comfortable to view, they should not be considered harmful or sleep disruptive when viewed during the day. The statement indicates that the only strong evidence for hazard is from temporal light effects (e.g. flicker) which can induce distraction and generally arise from inappropriately installed lighting systems.
Due to advantages over traditional florescent and incandescent lighting, LED lighting will likely become standard for all artificial lighting in the near future. The long-term effects of LED lighting on the retina remains unclear, however, no adverse effects are expected if appropriate LED lighting is installed in accordance with good lighting principles. Further research is needed to understand if young children or the elderly are more at risk from bright LED lights. Both the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER, 2018) and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES, 2019) have previously reviewed the evidence of the effects of LEDs on human health and have reached similar conclusions based on the current body of evidence. ARPANSA‘s review of both of these reports is available on our website.
An Australian study finds that sunscreen is the best method to reduce the impact of skin cancer
Gordon et al
BMJ Open, February 2020
This study compared the economic cost-effectiveness of two different intervention strategies for reducing the burden of melanoma and keratinocyte skin cancers in Queensland, Australia. The strategies compared were early intervention by daily sunscreen use to prevent skin cancer versus early detection through regular skin checks by physicians to allow early treatment. The study compared these intervention strategies with a control scenario where neither were used to prevent or manage skin cancer. The study then used models to project both the economic cost and incidence of skin cancers in Queensland for the next 30 years. This was based on data from other scientific studies on incidence of skin cancer, the effect of high and low sunscreen use and the clinical outcome and costs by using early detection measures. The study reported that daily sunscreen use would result in 1055 fewer melanomas and 16 977 fewer keratinocyte skin cancers per 100,000 people and save 38.7 million dollars in treatment costs. It was also reported that the early detection strategy would identify an additional 21 melanomas and 793 keratinocyte skin cancers per 100,000 people. However, the economic burden would result in an additional of 171.9 million dollars in treatment costs. The study concluded that daily sunscreen use would be the most effective strategy for protecting the Queensland population from skin cancers.
The study used data from a number of different studies that used different populations and methods and then applied this to the Queensland population. Although this may affect the skin cancer projections in the model, this is likely to result in an underestimate of the economic impact due to the study population being comprised of mostly fair skinned individuals with higher risk of skin cancer. Despite this, the study still provides valuable information regarding skin cancer prevention and resulting economic benefits. Overall, the results reported by the authors support ARPANSA’s sun protection messaging and those of Cancer Council Australia to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide to prevent excessive solar UV exposure.
French study examines exposure to ELF EMF during pregnancy and the effects on pregnancy outcomes
Migault et al
Occupational Environmental Medicine 2020
This was a pooled-analysis that combined data from two population-based birth cohorts established in 2011. The study examined maternal occupational exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMF) during pregnancy and the risk of key birth outcomes. Occupational exposure to ELF EME was assessed for 19,894 woman using a job exposure matrix. The study examined adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth and born small for gestational age. The authors reported statistically significant increased risks of prematurity in the lower ELF EMF exposure category at gestational ages (GA) 224 days (odds ratio (OR) was 1.16 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.03 – 1.30). However, at the highest ELF EMF exposure category there were no statistically significantly increased risk of preterm birth. The study also reported a statistically significant results of an increased risk for born small for gestational age in the highest ELF EMF exposure category at GA 224 days (OR of 1.25 with a 95% CI of 1.02 – 1.53). However, at all other ages and ELF EMF exposure categories there were no statistically significant increases in risks of an adverse pregnancy outcome. The authors concluded there was no clear evidence of an effect of ELF EMF on the risk of preterm birth or born small for gestational age.
This study reported some increases in the risk of preterm birth and born small for gestational age with maternal occupational exposure to ELF EMF during pregnancy. However, the vast majority of the result showed no increased risk. Due to the lack of consistent results throughout the study, this paper does not establish that ELF EMF during pregnancy has any effect adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes. The authors proposed that uncontrolled confounders, such as occupational exposure to other agents, could explain these inconsistent results. A review by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks in 2015 (link) concluded there is no evidence that fetal exposure to ELF magnetic fields is associated with adverse developmental outcomes. This is in line with ARPANSA’s advice that there is no established scientific and health evidence for adverse health effects from exposure to electric and magnetic fields from electrical devices and power infrastructure.
ICNIRP outlines future research needs for low frequency fields
Health Physics, April 2020
This statement by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) provides information on areas where further research is needed on exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and health. Specific areas where future research should focus on as recommended by ICNIRP include neurodegenerative disorders, pain perception, childhood leukemia, ELF EMF dosimetry, and the possible mechanisms by which ELF EMF can cause adverse health effects. The paper also provides guidance to researchers on how to conduct research to fill these gaps.
Power lines and other electricity supply infrastructure, such as transformers and substations, as well as other electrical sources such as electrical wiring and common appliances produce ELF EMF. For further information on ELF EMF and health, see the ARPANSA fact sheet: Electricity and health. The scientific evidence does not establish that exposure to ELF EMF found around the home, the office or near power lines and other electrical sources is a hazard to human health. However, it is important to continue research in this area and ARPANSA supports ICNIRP’s recommendations for future research.