Association between Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Use of Electrical Appliances during Pregnancy and Childhood

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As part of a comprehensive study of residential magnetic field exposure in nine midwestern and mid-Atlantic states, we evaluated the use of appliances by 640 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 0–14 years of age, diagnosed between 1989 and 1993, and 640 matched control children. Mothers were interviewed regarding use of electrical appliances during their pregnancy with the subject and the child's postnatal use. The risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia was elevated in children whose mothers reported use of an electric blanket or mattress pad during pregnancy [odds ratio (OR) = 1.59; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.11–2.29] but was reduced for use of sewing machines during pregnancy (OR = 0.76; 95% CI = 0.59–0.98). The risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia was increased with children's use of electric blankets or mattress pads (OR = 2.75; 95% CI = 1.52–4.98) and three other electrical appliances (hair dryers, video machines in arcades, and video games connected to a television), but the patterns of risk for duration in years of use and frequency of use were inconsistent for most appliances used by children. Risks rose with increasing number of hours per day children spent watching television, but risks were similar regardless of the usual distance from the television. The inconsistency in the dose-response patterns for many appliances, reporting and selection bias, and the lack of an effect for measured 60 Hertz magnetic fields or wire codes in our companion study must be considered before ascribing these associations to exposures from magnetic fields. (Epidemiology 1998;9:234–245)

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