Validation of objective records and misreporting of personal radio use in a cohort of British Police forces (the Airwave Health Monitoring Study)

Environ Res. 2016 Jul:148:367-375. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.04.018. Epub 2016 Apr 28.


Background: Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) is a digital communication system progressively adopted by Police Forces in Great Britain since 2001. In 2000, the UK Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones suggested that exposure to TETRA-like signal modulation might have adverse effects on health. The Airwave Health Monitoring Study was established to investigate possible long-term effects of TETRA use on health. This requires estimation of TETRA use among Police Force employees participating in the study.

Methods: We investigated TETRA usage among 42,112 Police officers and staff. An algorithm was created to link each personal radio user to his/her objective radio usage records for the 26,035 participants with available data. We linked 16,577 personal radio users to their objective radio usage records and compared self-reported usage with data from the TETRA operator for those individuals.

Results: For weekly usage, the correlation between self-reported and operator-derived personal radio usage was r=0.69 for number and r=0.59 for the duration of calls. Compared with objective data, participants under-reported the number of calls and over-reported the duration of calls by a factor of around 4 and 1.6 respectively. Correlations were lower and bias higher when looking at daily usage.

Conclusion: Where both objective and self-reported information were available, our study showed substantial misreporting in self-reported TETRA usage. Successful linkage of large numbers of TETRA users to objective data on their personal radios will allow objective assessment of TETRA radio usage for these participants and development of algorithms to correct bias in self-reported data for the remainder.

Keywords: Electromagnetic field; Occupational cohort; Radio frequency; TETRA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Bias
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Police / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radio / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radio Waves*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report*
  • United Kingdom