Childhood brain tumors and residential electromagnetic fields (EMF)

Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 1999;159:111-29. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4612-1496-0_5.


There are many recent comprehensive reviews of the residential EMF epidemiologic literature, but they do not attempt to cover the issue of childhood brain tumors and EMF in depth. We present here background information on descriptive epidemiology of known or suspected causes of childhood brain tumors and a detailed review of studies that have examined the associations between EMF as represented by various surrogates, and childhood brain tumors. We evaluated nine studies of childhood brain tumors and residential exposure to EMF based on wire codes, distance, measurements, and modeling, and six studies that examined the use of appliances by children or their mothers during pregnancy. For each study we discussed analytical and methodological issues including choice of cutpoints, nonconcurrent control selection, random digit dialing, differential participation, and ability of a study to detect an association. On the basis of this comprehensive review of all available childhood brain cancer studies, we do not see support for an overall association between EMF and childhood brain cancer. This lack of support applied for all surrogates of past magnetic fields, including wire code, distance, measured or calculated fields, and use of appliances by either child or mother.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Brain Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Child
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors