Purpose: Evidence of whether exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) is related to central nervous system diseases is inconsistent. This study updates a previous study of the incidence of such diseases in a large cohort of Danish utility workers by almost doubling the period of follow-up.
Methods: We investigated the risks for dementia, motor neurone disease, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy among 32,006 men employed at the 99 utility companies that supplied Denmark with electricity during the period 1900-1993. Cases were identified in the Danish National Patient Registry and the cohort was followed during 1982-2010. Exposure was estimated from a job-exposure matrix based on company records of job title and area of work and cohort members were allocated to one of three categories (<0.1, 0.1-0.99 and ≥1.0 µT).
Results: For dementia, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy the incidence rate ratios (IRR) were close to unity, but higher for motor neurone disease [IRR 1.24, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.86-1.79] and lower for Parkinson disease (IRR 0.81, 95% CI 0.67-0.97) among workers exposed to ≥0.1 µT compared with the Danish population. For the highest level of exposure (≥1.0 µT), IRRs of 1.44, 1.78, 1.40 and 1.34 were observed for dementia, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, respectively.
Conclusions: We observed elevated risks of dementia, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy and lower risks of Parkinson disease in relation to exposure to ELF-MF in a large cohort of utility employees.
Keywords: Central nervous system disease; Cohort study; ELF-MF; Occupational exposure.