emf-info

Health – Neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegenerative disease are characterised by a primarily age-related loss of nerve cells in the brain. This often leads to dementia (a decrease in mental abilities) and motor disorders. Naturally, older people are the main sufferers. Examples of neurodegenerative diseases are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer?s Disease (AD))
  • Senile dementia
  • Parkinson?s Disease’s disease  
  • Multiple Sclerosis (Multiple Sclerosis (MS))  
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS))

Connection to electromagnetic fields

Scientific investigations into whether or not there is a connection between EMFs and neurodegenerative diseases have been underway since the mid-1990s. A number of epidemiological studies have given indications that certain groups of professionals (such as electricians, electronics technicians, welders and railway workers) who are regularly subjected to low frequency magnet fields and other EMFs have a greater risk to be taken ill with Alzheimer or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)). A large-scale Swiss study found a possibly increased risk of Alzheimer or senile dementia for persons who have lived for many years close (within 50 metres) of a high tension power line. However recent results from Denmark do not Support the Swiss findings. The reasons for these connections have not been clarified. No biological mechanism is known whereby EMFs could give rise to neurodegenerative diseases. A recently published larger and more robust study could not confirm the Swiss findings. It is possible that electric shocks, to which electricians and other professions are exposed, could play a role in the connection to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)). There are no indications of a possible connection between low frequency EMFs and Parkinson?s Disease’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis (Multiple Sclerosis (MS)). Equally there are no indications of a connection to high frequency EMFs.

Conclusions

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sees no reasons for a connection between electromagnetic fields and neurodegenerative diseases; however, for some endpoints the data is not very robust and further research would be required.

Selected literature (overviews)

Literature List 2019 on RF Exposure and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Dürrenberger, G., Leuchtmann, P., Röösli, M., Siegrist, M., Sütterlin, B. (2015). Fachliteratur-Monitoring "EMF von Strom-Technologien". BFE, Bern. Publication 291030, section 3.3.3.

Frei, P., Poulsen, A., Mezei, G., Pedersen, C., Cronberg Salem, L., Johansen, C., Röösli, M., Schüz, J. (2013). Residential Distance to High-voltage Power Lines and Risk of Neurodegenerative Diseases: a Danish Population-based Case-Control Study. American Journal of Epidemiology Advance Access published April 9, 2013, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kws334.

Huss, A., Spoerri, A., Egger, M., et al. (2009). Residence near power lines and mortality from neurodegenerative diseases: longitudinal study of the Swiss population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 169, 2, 167–175.

Mattsson, M.O., Simko, M. (2012). Is there a relation between extremely low frequency magnetic field exposure, inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases? A review of in vivo and in vitro experimental evidence. Toxicology, 301, 1-3, 1-12.

SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks) (2015). Opinion on Potential Health Effects of Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMF). European Commission, Brussels. Sections 3.6.2.3, 3.6.2.4, and 3.8.2.3.

Sienkiewicz, Z, Schüz, J, Poulsen, AH, Cardis, E (2010). Risk analysis of human exposure to electromagnetic fields. European Health Risk Assessment Network on Electromagnetic Fields Exposure (EFHRAN): D 2 - Report - risk analysis of human exposure to electromagnetic fields. Brussels: European Commisssion.

Vergara X, Kheifets L, Greenland S, Oksuzyan S, Cho YS, Mezei G (2013). Occupational exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields and neurodegenerative disease: a meta-analysis. J Occup Environ Med, 55, 2, 135–146.