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Environ Int. 2012 Jan;38(1):29-36. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2011.08.002. Epub 2011 Sep 10.

Cohort study on the effects of everyday life radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure on non-specific symptoms and tinnitus.

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  • 1Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland.



There is public concern regarding potential health effects of radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) exposure, as produced by mobile phones or broadcast transmitters. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between RF-EMF exposure and non-specific symptoms and tinnitus in a prospective cohort study.


In 2008, 1375 randomly selected participants from Basel, Switzerland, were enrolled in a questionnaire survey with follow-up after one year (participation rate 82%). A score for somatic complaints (von Zerssen list) and headache (HIT-6) was assessed. Far-field environmental RF-EMF exposure was predicted using a validated prediction model. Regarding near-field exposure, self-reported mobile and cordless phone use as well as mobile phone operator data were collected. In multivariate regression models, we investigated whether exposure at baseline (cohort analysis) or changes in exposure between baseline and follow-up (change analysis) were related to changes in health scores.


For participants in the top decile of environmental far-field RF-EMF exposure at baseline, in comparison to participants exposed below the median value, the change in the von Zerssen- and HIT-6-scores between baseline and follow-up was -0.12 (95%-CI: -1.79 to 1.56) and -0.37 (95%-CI: -1.80 to 1.07) units, respectively. Exposure to near-field sources and a change in exposure between baseline and follow-up were not related to non-specific symptoms. Similarly, no association between RF-EMF exposure and tinnitus was observed.


In this first cohort study using objective and well-validated RF-EMF exposure measures, we did not observe an association between RF-EMF exposure and non-specific symptoms or tinnitus.

Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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