Correlations among indices of electric and magnetic field exposure in electric utility workers

Bioelectromagnetics. 1994;15(3):193-204. doi: 10.1002/bem.2250150304.


Power-frequency electric and magnetic fields are known to exhibit marked temporal variation, yet in the absence of clear biological indications, the most appropriate summary indices for use in epidemiologic studies are unknown. In order to assess the statistical patterns among candidate indices, data on 4383 worker-days for magnetic fields and 2082 worker-days for electric fields collected for the Electric and Magnetic Field Project for Electric Utilities using the EMDEX meter [Bracken (1990): Palo Alto, CA: Electric Power Research Institute] were analyzed. We examined correlations at the individual and job title group levels among indices of exposure to both electric and magnetic fields, including the arithmetic mean, geometric mean, median, 20th and 90th percentiles, time above lower cutoffs of 20 V/m and 0.2 microT, and time above higher cutoffs of 100 V/m and 2.0 microT. For both electric and magnetic fields, the arithmetic mean was highly correlated with the 90th percentile; moderately correlated with the geometric mean, median, and lower and higher cutoff scores; and weakly correlated with the 20th percentile. Electric and magnetic field indices were generally weakly correlated with one another. Rank-order correlation coefficients were consistently greater than product-moment correlation coefficients. Job title group summary scores showed higher correlations among electric field indices and magnetic field indices and between electric and magnetic field indices than was found for individual worker-days, with only the 20th percentile clearly independent of the others. These results suggest that individuals' exposures are adequately characterized by a measure of central tendency for electric and magnetic fields, such as the arithmetic or geometric mean, and an indicator of a lower threshold or cutoff for each field type, such as the 20th percentile or proportion of time above 20 V/m or 0.2 microT. A single measure of central tendency for each type of field appears to be adequate when exposures are assessed at the job title level.

MeSH terms

  • Electricity*
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Magnetics*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Power Plants
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology