Maternal proximity to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields and risk of birth defects
- 49 Downloads
Causes of birth defects are unclear, and the association with electromagnetic fields is inconclusive. We assessed the relationship between residential proximity to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields from power grids and risk of birth defects. We analyzed a population-based sample of 2,164,246 infants born in Quebec, Canada between 1989 and 2016. We geocoded the maternal residential postal code at delivery and computed the distance to the nearest high voltage electrical transmission line or transformer station. We used log-binomial regression to estimate risk ratios (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association of residential proximity to transmission lines and transformer stations with birth defects, adjusting for maternal and infant characteristics. The prevalence of birth defects within 200 m of a transmission line (579.4 per 10,000 per live births) was only slightly higher compared with distances further away (568.7 per 10,000). A similar trend was seen for transformer stations. Compared with 200 m, a distance of 50 m was not associated with the risk of birth defects for transmission lines (RR 1.00, 95% CI 1.00–1.01) and transformer stations (RR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00–1.03). There was no consistent association when we examined birth defects in different organ systems. We found no compelling evidence that residential proximity to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields from electrical power grids increases the risk of birth defects. Women residing near electrical grids can be reassured that an effect on the risk of birth defects is unlikely.
KeywordsCongenital abnormalities Electric power supplies Electromagnetic fields Environmental exposure Pregnancy outcome
The authors thank Denis Gauvin for information on the electrical infrastructure in Quebec.
This work was supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (6D02363004), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MOP-142277) and the Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (34695).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The University of Montreal Hospital Centre’s Institutional Review Board waived the need for ethical review as the data were de-identified. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.
- 2.Weinhold B. Environmental factors in birth defects: what we need to know. Environ Health Perspect. 2009;117:A440–7.Google Scholar
- 3.Shaw GM, Croen LA. Human adverse reproductive outcomes and electromagnetic field exposures: review of epidemiologic studies. Environ Health Perspect. 1993;101:107–19.Google Scholar
- 4.Lewis RC, Hauser R, Maynard AD, Neitzel RL, Wang L, Kavet R, et al. Exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields and the risk of infertility and adverse pregnancy outcomes: update on the human evidence and recommendations for future study designs. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2016;19:29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 12.Ministry of Health and Social Services. Med-echo system normative framework—maintenance and use of data for the study of hospital clientele. Quebec: Government of Quebec; 2017.Google Scholar
- 13.Collège des médecins du Québec. La tenue des dossiers par le médecin en centre hospitalier de soins généraux et spécialisés. 2005. http://www.cmq.org/publications-pdf/p-1-2005-12-01-fr-tenue-des-dossiers-par-medecin-en-centre-hospitalier-de-soins-generaux-et-specialises.pdf. Accessed 11 Jan 2019.
- 14.Gilbert-Barness E. Teratogenic causes of malformations. Ann Clin Lab Sci. 2010;40:99–114.Google Scholar
- 17.Comité scientifique sur les champs électromagnétiques. Position des autorités de santé publique sur la gestion des champs magnétiques émis par les lignes électriques. Ministry of Health and Social Services. 2014. http://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/document-001126/. Accessed 21 Sept 2018.
- 18.Gauvin D, Ngamga Djeutcha E, Levallois P. Exposition aux champs électromagnétiques: Mise à jour des risques pour la santé et pertinence de la mise en oeuvre du principe de précaution. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. 2006. https://www.inspq.qc.ca/pdf/publications/655-ChampsElectromagnetiques.pdf. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.
- 19.DMTI Spatial Inc. CanMap Content Suite data dictionary. 2016. http://canue.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Data_Dictionary_CanMap_Content_Suite_v2016_3.pdf. Accessed 10 Oct 2018.
- 20.HydroQuebec. The power system and health. Electric and magnetic fields. 2011. http://www.hydroquebec.com/fields/pdf/pop_23_01.pdf. Accessed 10 Jan 2019.
- 21.Public Health Agency of Canada. Congenital anomalies in Canada 2013: a perinatal health surveillance report. 2013. http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/443924/publication.html. Accessed 5 Sept 2018.
- 22.Pampalon R, Hamel D, Gamache P, Philibert MD, Raymond G, Simpson A. An area-based material and social deprivation index for public health in Québec and Canada. Can J Public Health. 2012;103:S17–22.Google Scholar
- 24.Deadman J-E, Plante M. Expositions aux champs magnétiques résidentiels au Québec. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. 2002. https://www.inspq.qc.ca/bise/expositions-aux-champs-magnetiques-residentiels-au-quebec. Accessed 25 Sept 2018.