Extremely low frequency magnetic fields and fertility: a follow up study of couples planning first pregnancies

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Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate the impact of extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields on markers of human fertility.

Methods

A follow up study of time to pregnancy, semen quality, and reproductive hormones was conducted among couples planning first pregnancies (36 males were welders and 21 were non-welders). The male and the female partner were monitored for exposure to ELF magnetic field by personal exposure meters. As summary measures of exposure the median value was calculated together with the 75 percentile value and the proportion of measurements exceeding 0.2 and 1.0 [micro sign]T, respectively. Each summary measure was divided in three categories: low, medium, and high.

Results

Couples in which the man had a medium or a high proportion of measurements >1.0 [micro sign]T had a reduced probability of conception per menstrual cycle compared with the men with low exposure, but the result was only significant for the men with medium exposure. This finding was partly attributable to a high probability of conception per menstrual cycle among the men with low exposure compared with non-welders in the original cohort of 430 couples. Other summary measures were not related to probability of conception or other markers of fertility. A possible negative association was found between high probability of conception and female exposure measures based on the median, the 75 percentile, and the proportion of measurements >0.2 [micro sign]T, but no association was found with the proportion of measurements >1.0 [micro sign]T.

Conclusions

The findings provide no consistent support for a hypothesis of a deleterious effect of low level ELF magnetic fields on markers of human fertility. However, due to the relatively small size of the studied population only large associations would be detected.

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