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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2015 May;218(3):331-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2015.02.001. Epub 2015 Feb 7.

Actual and perceived exposure to electromagnetic fields and non-specific physical symptoms: an epidemiological study based on self-reported data and electronic medical records.

Author information

1
Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands. Electronic address: Christos.Baliatsas@rivm.nl.
2
National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
3
Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), Utrecht, The Netherlands.
4
Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

There is continuing scientific debate and increasing public concern regarding the possible effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on general population's health. To date, no epidemiological study has investigated the possible association between actual and perceived EMF exposure and non-specific physical symptoms (NSPS) and sleep quality, using both self-reported and general practice (GP)-registered data.

METHODS:

A health survey of adult (≥ 18) participants (n=5933) in the Netherlands was combined with the electronic medical records (EMRs) of NSPS as registered by general practitioners. Characterization of actual exposure was based on several proxies, such as prediction models of radiofrequency (RF)-EMF exposure, geo-coded distance to high-voltage overhead power lines and self-reported use/distance of/to indoor electrical appliances. Perceived exposure and the role of psychological variables were also examined.

RESULTS:

Perceived exposure had a poor correlation with the actual exposure estimates. No significant association was found between modeled RF-EMF exposure and the investigated outcomes. Associations with NSPS were observed for use of an electric blanket and close distance to an electric charger during sleep. Perceived exposure, perceived control and avoidance behavior were associated with the examined outcomes. The association between perceived exposure was stronger for self-reported than for GP-registered NSPS. There was some indication, but no consistent pattern for an interaction between idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI-EMF) and the association between actual exposure and NSPS.

CONCLUSIONS:

In conclusion, there is no convincing evidence for an association between everyday life RF-EMF exposure and NSPS and sleep quality in the population. Better exposure characterization, in particular with respect to sources of extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) is needed to draw more solid conclusions. We argue that perceived exposure is an independent determinant of NSPS.

KEYWORDS:

Electromagnetic fields; Epidemiological studies; IEI-EMF; Non-ionizing radiation; Non-specific physical symptoms

PMID:
25704188
DOI:
10.1016/j.ijheh.2015.02.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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