Objective: To determine whether maternal exposure to high levels of magnetic fields (MFs) during pregnancy is associated with the risk of asthma in offspring.
Design: A prospective cohort study.
Setting: Kaiser Permanente Northern California.
Participants: Pregnant Kaiser Permanente Northern California members in the San Francisco area.
Main outcome measures: Asthma was clinically diagnosed among 626 children who were followed up for as long as 13 years. All participants carried a meter to measure their MF levels during pregnancy.
Results: After adjustment for potential confounders, a statistically significant linear dose-response relationship was observed between increasing maternal median daily MF exposure level in pregnancy and an increased risk of asthma in offspring: every 1-mG increase of maternal MF level during pregnancy was associated with a 15% increased rate of asthma in offspring (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.27). Using the categorical MF level, the results showed a similar dose-response relationship: compared with the children whose mothers had a low MF level (median 24-hour MF level, ≤0.3 mG) during pregnancy, children whose mothers had a high MF level (>2.0 mG) had more than a 3.5-fold increased rate of asthma (aHR, 3.52; 95% CI, 1.68-7.35), while children whose mothers had a medium MF level (>0.3-2.0 mG) had a 74% increased rate of asthma (aHR, 1.74; 95% CI, 0.93-3.25). A statistically significant synergistic interaction was observed between the MF effect and a maternal history of asthma and birth order (firstborn).
Conclusion: Our findings provide new epidemiological evidence that high maternal MF levels in pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma in offspring.