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Stillbirth and residential proximity to extremely low frequency power transmission lines: a retrospective cohort study
  1. Nathalie Auger1,2,3,
  2. Alison L Park1,2,
  3. Soumana Yacouba4,
  4. Marc Goneau1,
  5. Joseph Zayed4
  1. 1Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  2. 2Research Centre of the University of Montréal Hospital Centre, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  3. 3Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  4. 4Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montréal, Montréal, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nathalie Auger, Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 190, boulevard Crémazie Est, Montréal, Québec H2P 1E2, Canada; nathalie.auger{at}


Objectives The relationship between electromagnetic field exposure and stillbirth has not been evaluated. We assessed associations between residential proximity to extremely low frequency power transmission lines and stillbirth across gestational age.

Methods Data included singleton live births (N=514 826) and stillbirths (N=2033) for 1998–2007 in metropolitan areas of Québec, Canada. Using power transmission line maps, the distances between lines and residential six-digit postal codes (<25, 25–49.9, 50–74.9, 75–99.9, ≥100 m) were calculated. Generalised estimating equations were used to compute ORs and 95% CIs for distance and stillbirth, accounting for individual and area characteristics. Early preterm (<28 weeks), late preterm (28–36 weeks) and term (≥37 weeks) stillbirths were examined relative to fetuses-at-risk.

Results There was no association between distance and preterm stillbirth. The odds of term stillbirth for <25 m were greater compared to ≥100 m (OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.14 to 4.45), but no dose–response pattern was apparent.

Conclusions A graded dose–response trend between distance to lines and odds of stillbirth was not found, but the likelihood of term stillbirth was elevated for residences within 25 m of power transmission lines. Residential proximity to transmission lines is unlikely to be associated with stillbirth, but more research is needed to rule out a possible link.

  • Electromagnetic fields
  • fetal death
  • stillbirth
  • epidemiology
  • paediatrics
  • public health
  • obs and gynae
  • female reproductive effects and adverse pregnancy outcomes

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  • The data used for this analysis are publicly available, and can be accessed upon consent from the Québec health ministry.

  • Funding This work was financed by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR grant no. 225924).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.