Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields

Bioelectromagnetics. 1997;18(1):28-35. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1521-186x(1997)18:1<28::aid-bem6>;2-7.


In an hypothesis-generating case-control study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, lifetime occupational histories were obtained. The patients (n = 28) were clinic based. The occupational exposure of interest in this report is electromagnetic fields (EMFs). This is the first and so far the only exposure analyzed in this study. Occupational exposure up to 2 years prior to estimated disease symptom onset was used for construction of exposure indices for cases. Controls (n = 32) were blood and nonblood relatives of cases. Occupational exposure for controls was through the same age as exposure for the corresponding cases. Twenty (71%) cases and 28 (88%) controls had at least 20 years of work experience covering the exposure period. The occupational history and task data were used to classify blindly each occupation for each subject as having high, medium/high, medium, medium/low, or low EMF exposure, based primarily on data from an earlier and unrelated study designed to obtain occupational EMF exposure information on workers in "electrical" and "nonelectrical" jobs. By using the length of time each subject spent in each occupation through the exposure period, two indices of exposure were constructed: total occupational exposure (E1) and average occupational exposure (E2). For cases and controls with at least 20 years of work experience, the odds ratio (OR) for exposure at the 75th percentile of the E1 case exposure data relative to minimum exposure was 7.5 (P < 0.02; 95% CI, 1.4-38.1) and the corresponding OR for E2 was 5.5 (P < 0.02; 95% CI, 1.3-22.5). For all cases and controls, the ORs were 2.5 (P < 0.1; 95% CI, 0.9-8.1) for E1 and 2.3 (P = 0.12; 95% CI, 0.8-6.6) for E2. This study should be considered an hypothesis-generating study. Larger studies, using incident cases and improved exposure assessment, should be undertaken.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / etiology*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Time Factors