Home
Epidemiological study (observational study)

Sense and sensibility in the context of radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure.

Published in: CR physique 2010; 11 (9-10): 576-584

Aim of study (acc. to author)

A cohort study was conducted in Switzerland to investigate the association between radiofrequency electromagnetic fields exposure and non-specific health complaints in electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) individuals.

Further details

Furthermore, following topics were examined: to compare the self-declared EHS status at baseline with the respective jugdement one year later, and to compare socio-demographic factors, exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic field and health situation of EHS individuals with the rest of the study population.
Non-specific health complaints were assessed by following questionnaires: von Zerssen somatic complaint list, Headache Impact Test, Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Swiss Health Survey 2007 and a question from the European Health Interview Survey Questionnaire.

Endpoint/type of risk estimation

Type of risk estimation:
  • prevalence

Exposure

Assessment

Exposure groups

Group 1 distance to closest mobile phone base station
Group 2 predicted residential exposure to fixed state transmitters
Group 3 predicted total environmental far-field exposure (all sources)
Group 4 self-reported use of mobile phones
Group 5 operator registered use of mobile phones
Group 6 self-reported use of cordless phones

Population

  • Group:
    • men
    • women
  • Age: 30–60 years
  • Characteristics: Swiss residents or people living in Switzerland for at least 5 years
  • Observation period: 2008, follow-up in 2009
  • Study location: Switzerland (region of Basel)
  • Data source: QUALIFEX study

Study size

Total 4,000
Eligible 3,763
Participants 1,375
Participation rate 37 %
Other: 1122 participants in follow-up (82 %)
Statistical analysis method:
  • linear regression
  • logistic regression
  • Chi-square test
( adjustment:
  • age
  • sex
  • residential area
  • education
  • BMI, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, marital status, nightshift work, use of sleeping drugs, general attitude towards the environment
)

Conclusion (acc. to author)

8.1 % of the study population declared to be electromagnetic hypersensitive (EHS) in 2008 (2009: 7.3 %); and 13% attributed own symptoms to radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in 2008 (2009: 14.3 %) but did not declare to be hypersensitive (called attributers). However, only a minority of the EHS individuals and the attributers made the same declaration in 2008 and 2009. The radiofrequency exposure situation of EHS individuals was comparable to the rest of the population except ownership of cordless phones. Health disturbances were considerably more prevalent in the EHS group than in the attributer group and even more than in the rest of the population. Most importantly, the authors did not find evidence that various symptom scores were associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in the electromagnetic hypersensitive group.
The authors concluded that they could not confirm an association between radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in the everyday environment and health disturbances for EHS individuals or for people attributing own symptoms to radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure.

Study funded by

  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Related articles

  • Verrender A et al. (2018): IEI-EMF provocation case studies: A novel approach to testing sensitive individuals.
  • van Moorselaar I et al. (2017): Effects of personalised exposure on self-rated electromagnetic hypersensitivity and sensibility - A double-blind randomised controlled trial.
  • Baliatsas C et al. (2016): Clinically defined non-specific symptoms in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations: A retrospective before-after study.
  • Silva DF et al. (2015): Exposure to non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation from mobile telephony and the association with psychiatric symptoms.
  • Shahbazi-Gahrouei D et al. (2014): Health effects of living near mobile phone base transceiver station (BTS) antennae: a report from Isfahan, Iran.
  • Hagström M et al. (2013): Electromagnetic hypersensitive Finns: Symptoms, perceived sources and treatments, a questionnaire study.
  • Frei P et al. (2012): Cohort study on the effects of everyday life radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure on non-specific symptoms and tinnitus.
  • Kato Y et al. (2012): Reported functional impairments of electrohypersensitive Japanese: A questionnaire survey.
  • Tseng MMC et al. (2011): Prevalence and psychiatric comorbidity of self-reported electromagnetic field sensitivity in Taiwan: A population-based study.
  • Alazawi SA (2011): Mobile Phone Base Stations Health Effects.
  • Rubin GJ et al. (2011): Do people with idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields display physiological effects when exposed to electromagnetic fields? A systematic review of provocation studies.
  • Chu MK et al. (2011): Clinical features of headache associated with mobile phone use: a cross-sectional study in university students.
  • Breckenkamp J et al. (2010): [Results of a cross-sectional study on the association of electromagnetic fields emitted from mobile phone base stations and health complaints].
  • Bürgi A et al. (2010): A model for radiofrequency electromagnetic field predictions at outdoor and indoor locations in the context of epidemiological research.
  • Frei P et al. (2010): Classification of personal exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) for epidemiological research: Evaluation of different exposure assessment methods.
  • Rubin GJ et al. (2010): Idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (formerly 'electromagnetic hypersensitivity'): An updated systematic review of provocation studies.
  • Mohler E et al. (2010): Effects of everyday radiofrequency electromagnetic-field exposure on sleep quality: a cross-sectional study.
  • Berg-Beckhoff G et al. (2009): Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 2 of a cross-sectional study with measured radio frequency electromagnetic fields.
  • Frei P et al. (2009): Temporal and spatial variability of personal exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields.
  • Mohler E et al. (2009): [Personal radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure in Basel and area (Switzerland): An overview of the QUALIFEX project].
  • Bürgi A et al. (2008): Exposure modeling of high-frequency electromagnetic fields.
  • Röösli M (2008): Radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure and non-specific symptoms of ill health: A systematic review.
  • Schreier N et al. (2006): The prevalence of symptoms attributed to electromagnetic field exposure: a cross-sectional representative survey in Switzerland.
  • Röösli M et al. (2004): Symptoms of ill health ascribed to electromagnetic field exposure--a questionnaire survey.