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Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Jul 23;126(7):077007. doi: 10.1289/EHP2427. eCollection 2018 Jul.

A Prospective Cohort Study of Adolescents' Memory Performance and Individual Brain Dose of Microwave Radiation from Wireless Communication.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland
2
University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
3
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Berkeley Wireless Research Center, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA
4
Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC), Leuven, Belgium
5
Department of Information Technology, Waves research group, Ghent University

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The potential impact of microwave radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) emitted by wireless communication devices on neurocognitive functions of adolescents is controversial. In a previous analysis, we found changes in figural memory scores associated with a higher cumulative RF-EMF brain dose in adolescents.

OBJECTIVE:

We aimed to follow-up our previous results using a new study population, dose estimation, and approach to controlling for confounding from media usage itself.

METHODS:

RF-EMF brain dose for each participant was modeled. Multivariable linear regression models were fitted on verbal and figural memory score changes over 1 y and on estimated cumulative brain dose and RF-EMF related and unrelated media usage (n=669-676). Because of the hemispheric lateralization of memory, we conducted a laterality analysis for phone call ear preference. To control for the confounding of media use behaviors, a stratified analysis for different media usage groups was also conducted.

RESULTS:

We found decreased figural memory scores in association with an interquartile range (IQR) increase in estimated cumulative RF-EMF brain dose scores: -0.22 (95% CI: -0.47, 0.03; IQR: 953 mJ/kg per day) in the whole sample, -0.39 (95% CI: -0.67, -0.10; IQR: 953 mJ/kg per day) in right-side users (n=532), and -0.26 (95% CI: -0.42, -0.10; IQR: 341 mJ/kg per day) when recorded network operator data were used for RF-EMF dose estimation (n=274). Media usage unrelated to RF-EMF did not show significant associations or consistent patterns, with the exception of consistent (nonsignificant) positive associations between data traffic duration and verbal memory.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings for a cohort of Swiss adolescents require confirmation in other populations but suggest a potential adverse effect of RF-EMF brain dose on cognitive functions that involve brain regions mostly exposed during mobile phone use. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP2427.

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