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Environ Int. 2014 Jan;62:55-63. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.09.017. Epub 2013 Oct 24.

Potential health impacts of residential exposures to extremely low frequency magnetic fields in Europe.

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Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), PRBB, Doctor Aiguader, 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain; CIBER EpidemiologĂ­a y Salud PĂșblica (CIBERESP), PRBB, Doctor Aiguader, 88, 08003 Barcelona, Spain; Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College, St. Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK. Electronic address:


Over the last two decades residential exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF MF) has been associated with childhood leukaemia relatively consistently in epidemiological studies, though causality is still under investigation. We aimed to estimate the cases of childhood leukaemia that might be attributable to exposure to ELF MF in the European Union (EU27), if the associations seen in epidemiological studies were causal. We estimated distributions of ELF MF exposure using studies identified in the existing literature. Individual distributions of exposure were integrated using a probabilistic mixture distribution approach. Exposure-response functions were estimated from the most recently published pooled analysis of epidemiological data. Probabilistic simulation was used to estimate population attributable fractions (AFP) and attributable cases of childhood leukaemia in the EU27. By assigning the literature review-based exposure distribution to all EU27 countries, we estimated the total annual number of cases of leukaemia attributable to ELF MF at between ~50 (95% CIs: -14, 132) and ~60 (95% CIs: -9, 610), depending on whether exposure-response was modelled categorically or continuously, respectively, for a non-threshold effect. This corresponds to between ~1.5% and ~2.0% of all incident cases of childhood leukaemia occurring annually in the EU27. Considerable uncertainties are due to scarce data on exposure and the choice of exposure-response model, demonstrating the importance of further research into better understanding mechanisms of the potential association between ELF MF exposure and childhood leukaemia and the need for improved monitoring of residential exposures to ELF MF in Europe.


Cancer; Childhood leukaemia; Electromagnetic fields; Low frequency; Magnetic fields; Risk assessment

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