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Re-examining the association between residential exposure to magnetic fields from power lines and childhood asthma in the Danish National Birth Cohort.

  • Author(s): Sudan, Madhuri
  • Arah, Onyebuchi A
  • Becker, Thomas
  • Levy, Yael
  • Sigsgaard, Torben
  • Olsen, Jørn
  • Vergara, Ximena
  • Kheifets, Leeka
  • et al.
Abstract

BACKGROUND:A study reported an increased risk of asthma in children whose mothers were exposed to magnetic field (MF) levels above 0.2 μT during pregnancy. We re-examined this association using data from mothers and children in the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC). METHODS:This study included 92,676 singleton-born children and their mothers from the DNBC. MF exposure from power lines was estimated for all residences where the mothers lived during pregnancy and for all children from birth until the end of follow up. Exposure was categorized into 0 μT, 0.1 μT, and ≥ 0.2 μT for analysis. Definitive and possible asthma cases were identified using data from three independent data sources: 1) mothers' reports, 2) a national hospitalization register, 3) a national prescription drug register. We calculated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between the highest level of exposure during pregnancy and asthma in children, adjusting for several potential confounding factors. We also examined the sensitivity of the risk estimates to changes in exposure and outcome definitions. RESULTS:No differences or trends in the risk of asthma development were detected between children with different levels of MF exposure regardless of the asthma case definition or outcome data source. For definitive cases, the HR (95% CI) for those with any exposure was 0.72 (0.27-1.92), and it was 0.41 (0.06-2.92) for those exposed to ≥ 0.2 μT. Adjustments for confounding and variations in the exposure definition did not appreciably alter the results. CONCLUSION:We did not find evidence that residential exposure to MF during pregnancy or early childhood increased the risk of childhood asthma. This interpretation is in line with the lack of an established biological mechanism directly linking MF exposure to asthma, but high exposure was very rare in this cohort.

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