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Epidemiological study (observational study)

Association between exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields assessed by dosimetry and acute symptoms in children and adolescents: a population based cross-sectional study.

Published in: Environ Health 2010; 9 (1): 75-1-75-9

Aim of study (acc. to author)

A cross-sectional study was conducted in Germany to investigate the possible association of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields and acute symptoms in children and adolescents.

Further details

Acute symptoms were assessed twice during the 24-hour measurement using a symptom diary. The behavioural problems of the same study population are analyzed in Thomas et al (2010) and chronic symptoms in Heinrich et al (2011).

Endpoint/type of risk estimation

Type of risk estimation:
  • prevalence
(odds ratio (OR))

Exposure

Assessment

Exposure groups

Reference group 1 quartile 1 for children: exposure measured during morning hours
Group 2 quartile 2 for children: exposure measured during morning hours
Group 3 quartile 3 for children: exposure measured during morning hours
Group 4 quartile 4 for children: exposure measured during morning hours
Reference group 5 children with ≤ 5 minutes mobile phone use during morning hours
Group 6 children with > 5 minutes mobile phone use during morning hours
Reference group 7 quartile 1 for children: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Group 8 quartile 2 for children: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Group 9 quartile 3 for children: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Group 10 quartile 4 for children: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Reference group 11 children with ≤ 5 minutes mobile phone use during afternoon hours
Group 12 children with > 5 minutes mobile phone use during afternoon hours
Reference group 13 quartile 1 for adolescents: exposure measured during morning hours
Group 14 quartile 2 for adolescents: exposure measured during morning hours
Group 15 quartile 3 for adolescents: exposure measured during morning hours
Group 16 quartile 4 for adolescents: exposure measured during morning hours
Reference group 17 adolescents with ≤ 5 minutes mobile phone use during morning hours
Group 18 adolescents with > 5 minutes mobile phone use during morning hours
Reference group 19 quartile 1 for adolescents: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Group 20 quartile 2 for adolescents: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Group 21 quartile 3 for adolescents: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Group 22 quartile 4 for adolescents: exposure measured during afternoon hours
Reference group 23 adolescents with ≤ 5 minutes mobile phone use during afternoon hours
Group 24 adolescents with > 5 minutes mobile phone use during afternoon hours

Population

  • Group:
    • children
  • Age: 8–17 years
  • Characteristics: children (aged between 8 and 12 years) and adolescents (aged between 13 and 17 years)
  • Observation period: 2006 - 2008
  • Study location: Germany (Munich, Augsburg, Rosenheim, Landsberg)
  • Data source: registration offices

Study size

Eligible 5,870
Participants 3,022
Participation rate 52 %
Other: 1498 children and 1508 adolescents participated in interview and exposure measurement
Statistical analysis method:
  • logistic regression
( adjustment:
  • age
  • sex
  • residential area
  • education
  • environmental worries
)

Conclusion (acc. to author)

The overall measured exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields was very low and ranged from a mean of 0.13 % to a mean of 0.92 % of the ICNIRP reference level during waking hours. 2 % of the children and 14 % of the adolescents used their mobile phones more than 5 minutes in the afternoon.
Only few of the large number of investigated associations were found to be statistically significant, however not consistent over the two time points. At noon, adolescents with a measured exposure in the highest quartile during morning hours reported a statistically significant higher intensity of headache (OR 1.50, CI 1.03-2.19). At bedtime, adolescents with a measured exposure in the highest quartile during afternoon hours reported a statistically significant higher intensity of irritation in the evening (OR 1.79, CI 1.23-2.61), while children reported a statistically significant higher intensity of concentration problems (OR 1.55, CI 1.02- 2.33). In the subgroup analysis of 10 % of the participants with the highest exposure, the significant results of the main analysis could not be confirmed.
The authors assume that the few observed significant association are not causal but rather occurred by chance.

Study funded by

  • Deutsches Mobilfunk Forschungsprogramm (DMF; German Mobile Phone Research Programme) at Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS)

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