Studies have suggested that residential exposure to extremely low frequency (50 Hz) electromagnetic fields (ELF-EMF) from high voltage cables, overhead power lines, electricity substations or towers are associated with reduced birth weight and may be associated with adverse birth outcomes or even miscarriages. We previously conducted a study of 140,356 singleton live births between 2004 and 2008 in Northwest England, which suggested that close residential proximity (≤ 50 m) to ELF-EMF sources was associated with reduced average birth weight of 212 g (95%CI: -395 to -29 g) but not with statistically significant increased risks for other adverse perinatal outcomes. However, the cohort was limited by missing data for most potentially confounding variables including maternal smoking during pregnancy, which was only available for a small subgroup, while also residual confounding could not be excluded. This study, using the same cohort, was conducted to minimize the effects of these problems using multiple imputation to address missing data and propensity score matching to minimize residual confounding. Missing data were imputed using multiple imputation using chained equations to generate five datasets. For each dataset 115 exposed women (residing ≤ 50 m from a residential ELF-EMF source) were propensity score matched to 1150 unexposed women. After doubly robust confounder adjustment, close proximity to a residential ELF-EMF source remained associated with a reduction in birth weight of -116 g (95% confidence interval: -224:-7 g). No effect was found for proximity ≤ 100 m compared to women living further away. These results indicate that although the effect size was about half of the effect previously reported, close maternal residential proximity to sources of ELF-EMF remained associated with suboptimal fetal growth.
Keywords: Birth weight; ELF; EMF; Electromagnetic fields; Fetal growth; Power lines.
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