Occupational exposure to low frequency magnetic fields and dementia: a case–control study

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Abstract

Background:

Several studies point to a potential aetiological relevance to dementia of exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields, but the evidence is inconclusive.

Objective:

To further examine the relationship between low frequency magnetic fields and dementia.

Methods:

From 23 general practices, 195 patients with dementia were recruited. Of these, 108 had possible Alzheimer’s disease, 59 had possible vascular dementia and 28 had secondary or unclassified dementia. A total of 229 controls were recruited: 122 population controls and 107 ambulatory patients free from dementia. Data were gathered in a structured personal interview; in cases, the interview was administered to the next of kin. Exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields was assessed by expert rating. To identify occupations suspected to be associated with dementia, major occupations were a priori formed. Odds ratios were calculated using logistic regression, to control for age, region, sex, dementia in parents and smoking.

Results:

Exposure to magnetic fields was not significantly associated with dementia; restriction of the analysis to cases with possible Alzheimer’s disease or possible vascular dementia did not lead to statistically significant results. We found an increased risk of dementia in blue-collar occupations (electrical and electronics workers, metal workers, construction workers, food and beverage processors and labourers).

Conclusions:

Our study does not support a strong association between occupational exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields and dementia. Further studies should consider the relationship between blue-collar work and the late development of dementia.

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