Use of TETRA personal radios and sickness absence in the Airwave Health Monitoring Study of the British police forces

Environ Res. 2019 Aug;175:148-155. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.05.012. Epub 2019 May 14.


Background: Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) is used for radiocommunications among the British police forces.

Objectives: To investigate association of personal radio use and sickness absence among police officers and staff from the Airwave Health Monitoring Study.

Methods: Participant-level sickness absence records for 26 forces were linked with personal radio use for 32,102 participants. We used multivariable logistic regression to analyse TETRA usage in year prior to enrolment and sickness absence (lasting more than 7 or 28 consecutive days) in the following year and a zero-inflated negative binomial model for analyses of number of sickness absence episodes of any duration ('spells') over the same period. In secondary analyses, we looked at an extended period of observation among a sub-cohort with linked data over time, using Cox proportional hazards regression.

Results: Median personal radio use (year prior to enrolment) was 29.7 min per month (interquartile range 7.5, 64.7) among users. In the year following enrolment there were 25,655 sickness absence spells among 15,248 participants. There were similar risks of sickness absence lasting more than seven days among users and non-users, although among users risk was higher with greater use, odds ratio = 1.04 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02 to 1.06) per doubling of radio use. There was no association for sickness absence of more than 28 days. For sickness absence spells, risk was lower among users than non-users (incidence rate ratio = 0.91; 95% CI 0.75 to 1.11), again with higher risk among users for greater radio use. There was no association between radio use and sickness absence in secondary analyses.

Discussion: There were similar or lower risks of sickness absence in TETRA radio users compared with non-users. Among users, the higher risk of sickness absence with greater radio use may reflect working pattern differences among police personnel rather than effects of radiofrequency exposure.

Keywords: EMF; Police; Radiofrequency; Sickness absence; TETRA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Police* / statistics & numerical data
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects
  • Radio* / statistics & numerical data
  • Sick Leave* / statistics & numerical data