Extremely low-frequency magnetic field exposure may promote neurodegenerative diseases
Individuals living within 50 metres of high-voltage overhead power lines tend to have heightened risk of Alzheimer’s dementia or Parkinson’s disease compared with those residing at >600 metres, suggesting that exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MFs) may contribute to an increase in the risk of these neurodegenerative diseases, a study reports.
Researchers looked at residents in the Milan metropolitan area. The coordinates of the address of residence was used to determine the distance from the nearest high-voltage (>30 kV27) overhead power line, which in turn served as a proxy for exposure to ELF-MF, while the distance from the nearest high-traffic road was considered as a possible confounding factor. Distance between the residence address and the power grid was categorized as follows: <50, 50–199, 200–599 and ≥600 m.
The analysis included 9,835 Alzheimer’s dementia patients (mean age, 78.5 years) and 39,340 matched controls and 6,810 Parkinson’s disease patients (mean age, 72.9 years) and 27,240 controls.
Logistic regression analysis showed that people living within 50 metres of high-voltage overhead power lines were 11 percent as likely as those who reside at a distance ≥600 metres to have Alzheimer’s dementia (odds ratio [OR], 1.11, 95 percent CI, 0.95–1.30). There was no association observed for socioeconomic deprivation or proximity to high-traffic road network.
On the other hand, individuals living within 50 metres of high-voltage overhead power lines were 1.09 times as likely as those who reside at a distance of ≥600 metres to have Parkinson’s disease (OR, 1.09, 0.92–1.30). Parkinson's disease likewise showed no obvious relationships with proximity to high-traffic roads, whereas there was a clear linear association between the increase in deprivation level and the risk of illness.
The finding of a weak association between exposure to the ELF-MFs and neurodegenerative diseases underscores a need for continued research on such topic, according to the researchers. Additionally, future studies should have refined designs to address the low consistency between the results of the already existing investigations.