Sleep quality and general health status of employees exposed to extremely low frequency magnetic fields in a petrochemical complex

J Environ Health Sci Eng. 2014 Apr 29;12:78. doi: 10.1186/2052-336X-12-78. eCollection 2014.


Background: Advances in science and technology of electrical equipment, despite increasing human welfare in everyday life, have increased the number of people exposed to Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMFs). Because of possible adverse effects on the health of exposed individuals, the EMFs have being the center of attention. This study was performed to determine possible correlation between Extremely Low Frequency Electro-Magnetic Fields (ELF EMFs) and sleep quality and public health of those working in substation units of a petrochemical complex in southern Iran.

Materials and method: To begin with, magnetic flux density was measured at different parts of a Control Building and two substations in accordance with IEEE std 644-1994. Subsequently, the questionnaires "Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index" (PSQI) and "General Health Quality (GHQ)" were used to investigate relationship between ELF exposure level and sleep quality and public health, respectively. Both questionnaires were placed at disposal of a total number of 40 workers at the complex. The filled out questionnaires were analyzed by T-test, Duncan and the Chi-square tests.

Results: The obtained results revealed that 28% of those in case group suffered from poor health status and 61% were diagnosed with a sleep disorder. However, all members in control group were in good health condition and only 4.5% of them had undesirable sleep quality.

Conclusion: In spite of a significant difference between the case and control groups in terms of sleep quality and general health, no significant relationship was found between the exposure level and sleep quality and general health. It is worth noting that the measured EMF values were lower than the standard limits recommended by American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). However, given the uncertainties about the pathogenic effects caused by exposure to ELF EMFs, further epidemiological studies and periodic testing of personnel working in high voltage substations are of utmost importance.

Keywords: ELF; Electromagnetic fields; General health; Quality of sleep.