Exposure to electromagnetic fields and risk of central nervous system disease in utility workers

Epidemiology. 2000 Sep;11(5):539-43. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200009000-00009.


Occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields has been associated with neurological diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, senile dementia, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease. I studied the incidence of central nervous system diseases in 30,631 persons employed in Danish utility companies between 1900 and 1993. I linked the cohort to the nationwide, population-based Danish National Register of Patients and compared the numbers of cases of these diseases observed between 1978 and 1993 with the corresponding rates in the general population. In addition I fit to the data on utility workers a multiplicative Poisson regression model in relation to estimated levels of exposure to 50-Hz electromagnetic fields. Overall, there was an increase in risk for senile dementia and motor neuron diseases combined. The incidences of Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, and other diseases of the central nervous system were essentially unrelated to exposure to electromagnetic fields. A decreased risk of epilepsy compared with the general population probably reflects a healthy worker effect; I observed an increased risk of epilepsy based on internal comparisons. The increased risk for senile dementia and motorneuron diseases may be associated with above-average levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Power Plants
  • Risk Factors