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JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Mar 2;3(3):e201417. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.1417.

Association Between Maternal Exposure to Magnetic Field Nonionizing Radiation During Pregnancy and Risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Offspring in a Longitudinal Birth Cohort.

Author information

1
Division of Research, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California.

Abstract

Importance:

An association between maternal exposure to magnetic field (MF) nonionizing radiation during pregnancy and the risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been reported in both animal and human studies.

Objectives:

To determine whether maternal exposure to high levels of MF nonionizing radiation is associated with an increased risk of ADHD in offspring by using more accurate measurements of MF nonionizing radiation levels and physician-diagnosed ADHD, rather than self-reports, and to determine whether the association differs for the subtypes of ADHD with or without immune-related comorbidities.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

A longitudinal birth cohort study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northern California among 1482 mother-child pairs whose mothers were participants of an existing birth cohort and whose level of exposure to MF nonionizing radiation was captured during pregnancy in 2 studies conducted from October 1, 1996, to October 31, 1998, and from May 1, 2006, to February 29, 2012. The offspring were followed up from May 1, 1997, to December 31, 2017.

Exposure:

All participating women wore a monitoring meter for 24 hours during pregnancy to capture the level of exposure to MF nonionizing radiation from any sources.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Physician-diagnosed ADHD and immune-related comorbidities of asthma or atopic dermatitis up to 20 years of age in offspring captured in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California electronic medical record from May 1, 1997, to December 31, 2017. Confounders were ascertained during in-person interviews during pregnancy.

Results:

Among the 1454 mother-child pairs (548 white [37.7%], 110 African American [7.6%], 325 Hispanic [22.4%], 376 Asian or Pacific Islander [25.9%], and 95 other or unknown [6.5%]; mean [SD] maternal age, 31.4 [5.4] years]), 61 children (4.2%) had physician-diagnosed ADHD. Using Cox proportional hazards regression to account for follow-up time and confounders, compared with children whose mothers had a low level of exposure to MF nonionizing radiation during pregnancy, children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of MF nonionizing radiation had more than twice the risk of ADHD (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 2.01; 95% CI, 1.06-3.81). The association was stronger for ADHD that persisted into adolescence (≥12 years of age), with an aHR of 3.38 (95% CI, 1.43-8.02). When the subtypes of ADHD were examined, the association existed primarily for ADHD with immune-related comorbidities (asthma or atopic dermatitis), with an aHR of 4.57 (95% CI, 1.61-12.99) for all ADHD cases and an aHR of 8.27 (95% CI, 1.96-34.79) for persistent cases of ADHD.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Consistent with the emerging literature, this study suggests that in utero exposure to high levels of MF nonionizing radiation was associated with an increased risk of ADHD, especially ADHD with immune-related comorbidity. The findings should spur more research to examine the biological association of in utero MF exposure with risk of ADHD in offspring, given that almost everyone is exposed to it.

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