Background: Some epidemiologic studies have suggested an association between electromagnetic field exposure induced by high voltage power lines and childhood leukemia, but null results have also been yielded and the possibility of bias due to unmeasured confounders has been suggested.
Methods: We studied this relation in the Modena and Reggio Emilia municipalities of northern Italy, identifying the corridors along high voltage power lines with calculated magnetic field intensity in the 0.1-<0.2, 0.2-<0.4, and > or = 0.4 microTesla ranges. We identified 64 cases of newly-diagnosed hematological malignancies in children aged <14 within these municipalities from 1986 to 2007, and we sampled four matched controls for each case, collecting information on historical residence and parental socioeconomic status of these subjects.
Results: Relative risk of leukemia associated with antecedent residence in the area with exposure > or = 0.1 microTesla was 3.2 (6.7 adjusting for socioeconomic status), but this estimate was statistically very unstable, its 95% confidence interval being 0.4-23.4, and no indication of a dose-response relation emerged. Relative risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia was 5.3 (95% confidence interval 0.7-43.5), while there was no increased risk for the other hematological malignancies.
Conclusions: Though the number of exposed children in this study was too low to allow firm conclusions, results were more suggestive of an excess risk of leukemia among exposed children than of a null relation.