Occup Environ Med 57:249-257 doi:10.1136/oem.57.4.249
  • Paper

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among electric utility workers in Ontario: the evaluation of alternate indices of exposure to 60 Hz electric and magnetic fields


OBJECTIVES To examine associations between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and exposures to 60 Hz magnetic and electric fields in electric utility workers with a series of indices that capture a variety of aspects of field strength.

METHODS The study population consisted of 51 cases of NHL and 203 individually matched controls identified from within a cohort of male electric utility workers in Ontario. Odds ratios were calculated for several exposure indices with conditional logistic regression models. Aspects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields that were modelled included: the percentage of time spent above selected threshold field intensities, mean transitions in field strength, SD, and the arithmetic and geometric mean field intensities.

RESULTS For the most part, there was a lack of an association between exposure indices of magnetic fields and the incidence of NHL. Subjects in the upper tertile of percentage of time spent above electric field intensities of 10 and 40 V/m had odds ratios of 3.05 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.07 to 8.80) and 3.57 (1.30 to 9.80), respectively, when compared with those in the lowest tertile. Moreover, the percentages of time spent above these electric field thresholds were significant predictors of case status over and above the association explained by duration of employment and the arithmetic or geometric mean exposure.

CONCLUSIONS These data suggest that exposures above electric field threshold intensities of 10 and 40 V/m are important predictors of NHL. Consequently, the findings support the hypothesis that electric fields may play a promoting part in the aetiology of this cancer. Further occupational studies that include assessment of exposure to electric fields and measures of field strength above similar threshold cut off points are needed to confirm these findings.