Residential exposure to 50 Hz magnetic fields and the association with miscarriage risk: a 2-year prospective cohort study

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 3;8(12):e82113. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082113. eCollection 2013.


Objective: The hypothesis of whether exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) may increase miscarriage risk is controversial. A 2-year prospective cohort study was designed to study the association between exposure to 50 Hz magnetic fields (MF) and the miscarriage risk for women residing in the area of the Pearl-River Delta of China.

Method: Two towns with densely distributed power supply constructions were selected as the study sites. From 2010 to 2012, 552 women in the region who were at approximately 8 weeks of gestation or who planned to have a baby within 1 year were selected as candidate subjects. Exposure to MF was estimated by measurements at their front doors and in the alley in front of the subjects' houses. The average exposure level was used as a cutoff point to define the exposed group. Clinical miscarriage was diagnosed by local obstetricians. Staffs from the local population and family planning service stations were responsible for the follow-up interviews every 2 months.

Results: Four hundred and thirteen pregnant women were selected for the cohort study. The average residential exposure to MF was 0.099 µT. No significantly increased risk of miscarriage was found to be associated with the average front-door exposure (p>0.05). However, miscarriage risk was found to be significantly associated with maximum alley exposure (p=0.001). The relative risk (RR) of miscarriage from maximum alley exposure was 2.35 (95% C.I.: 1.18-4.71). In addition, Cox regression analysis showed that the adjusted hazard ratio of maximum alley exposure for miscarriage was 1.72 (95% C.I.:1.10-2.69).

Conclusion: Although the miscarriage incidence was shown to be positively associated with the maximum alley MF exposure, the association between miscarriage risk and the exposure to MF was not confirmed in the study. The results of this study are of interest concerning MF exposure assessment and pregnancy outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study was funded by the Commonweal and Environmental Protection Project of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China (MEP) (No. 200909107). URL: The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.