Background: The increase in numbers of mobile phone users was accompanied by some concern that exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) might adversely affect acute health especially in children and adolescents. The authors investigated this potential association using personal dosimeters.
Methods: A 24-hour exposure profile of 1484 children and 1508 adolescents was generated in a population-based cross-sectional study in Germany between 2006 and 2008 (participation 52%). Personal interview data on socio-demographic characteristics, self-reported exposure and potential confounders were collected. Acute symptoms were assessed twice during the study day using a symptom diary.
Results: Only few of the large number of investigated associations were found to be statistically significant. At noon, adolescents with a measured exposure in the highest quartile during morning hours reported a statistically significant higher intensity of headache (Odd Ratio: 1.50; 95% confidence interval: 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 (4th quartile 1.79; 1.23, 2.61), while children reported a statistically significant higher intensity of concentration problems (4th quartile 1.55; 1.02, 2.33).
Conclusions: We observed few statistically significant results which are not consistent over the two time points. Furthermore, when the 10% of the participants with the highest exposure are taken into consideration the significant results of the main analysis could not be confirmed. Based on the pattern of these results, we assume that the few observed significant associations are not causal but rather occurred by chance.