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ASSOCIATIO OF HEALTH PROBLEMS WITH 50-HZ MAGETIC


FIELDS I HUMA ADULTS LIVIG EAR POWER TRASMISSIO
LIES

1
Ainorkhilah Mahmood, 1Azrinawati Mohd Zin, 1Wan Zarina Wan Kamaruddin
and 2Teoh Sian Hoon
1
Department of Applied Sciences, Universiti Teknologi MARA Pulau Pinang
2
Department of Information Technology & Science Quantitative, Universiti Teknologi MARA Pulau Pinang
ainorkhilah_sp@ppinang.uitm.edu.my

ABSTRACT

Numerous studies have been conducted to look for evidence of association between power-frequency
magnetic field exposure and human health. Many studies of animals and cell cultures indicate that
immune-system function is affected by power-frequency magnetic fields. However, only few studies
have looked for evidence of association between power-frequency magnetic field exposure and
immune-related illnesses in humans. This study used a cross sectional design to examine the dose-
response relationship between magnetic field exposure of adults who live near power transmission
lines and incidence of immune-related and other chronic illnesses. Three hundred adults completed
questionnaires about their health and demographic characteristics. The exposure assessment method
used was short-term (spot) measurements of magnetic fields in homes. Derived health variables were
related to homes magnetic field exposure. It was found that there are significant associations between
emf exposure levels of adults living near transmission lines and allergy–related illnesses, namely
eczema, urticaria and asthma. Rheumatoid arthiritis and Myasthenia gravis, both represent
autoimmune–related illness, as well as type II –diabetes showed a proportional relationship with
amount of exposure level. The results indicate that power-frequency magnetic field exposure might
have a possible adverse effect on some allergy–related and immune-related illnesses.

Keywords: Cross-sectional design, Magnetic-field exposure, Health hazard, Power Transmission line
Instructions, templates

1. ITRODUCTIO

Electric power transmission is one process in the transmitting of electricity to consumers. Power
transmission lines are those high voltage lines that carry power from the power plant to substations near a
populated area or between substations. Transmission lines generate both strong electric and magnetic
fields. There is a general perception amongst many communities that there are health risks resulting from
exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from power transmission lines.
Previous studies have revealed that for some illness there is a degree of consistency in the evidence
suggested adverse health effects of living near high voltage power transmission line (Poole and Ozonoff,
1996). The initial evidence of a link between EMF and cancer was provided in 1979 by Wertheimer and
Leeper (Wertheimer and Leeper, 1979). They found that children who had died from cancer were 2 to 3
times more likely to have lived within 40 m (131 ft) of a high-current power line than were the other
children studied. Exposure to magnetic fields was identified as a possible factor in this finding.
However, only few studies have looked for evidence of association between environmental power
frequency magnetic field exposure and immune-related illness in humans. Beale, et al. examined eight
immune-related and chronic illnesses in a group of 560 adults living near extra high voltage transmission
lines in Auckland, New Zealand (Beale, et al., 2001). Five of the eight health variables showed a linear
dose-responses relationship with exposure. After adjustment for possible confounding, significantly
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C S S R 0 8’ 0 9 14 - 15 March 2009
C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

elevated odd ratios were obtained for both asthma and combined chronic illnesses at higher exposure
level.
In 1989, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) issued an “Entity Position
Statement” which stated that “there is no enough relevant scientific data establish whether common
exposure to power-frequency field should be considered a health hazard” and “there is general agreement
that more research is needed to define safe limits of human exposure to power frequency fields” (Miller
and Anderson, 1989). Therefore, further research is needed to confirm or negate reports of effects of
weak fields, and to determine mechanisms and relevance of these effects to actual health hazards.
Continued study in this complicated area will enhance our understanding of biological systems, as well as
help identify levels and types of ELF exposure that may be deleterious to human health.
Our research is conducted to investigate the association of health problems with magnetic fields from
transmission lines. The magnetic field exposure levels of adults living near extra high voltage transmission
lines were measured. The dose-respond relationship between magnetic field exposure of adults and their
health problems were also examined.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

ELF had not been considered hazardous to health until the early 1970s. Health risk associated with
such field include in wide variety of ills ranging from disruption of normal circadian rhythms to childhood
cancer (Poole and Ozonoff, 1996). These fields are non-ionizing; they are too weak to disrupt molecular
bonds leading to genetic damage in living cell. Given the small amount of energy that is deposited in
connection with exposure to ELF fields, any health effects due to weak long-term exposure would have to
be produced by a to-date unknown biophysical mechanism. Despite this, researchers have been intrigued
by this possibility.
In 1998, study by Bonhomme-Faivre et al. found evidence that chronic human exposure to
environmental low frequency EMFs can cause neurovegetative, haematological and immunological
disorders (Bonhomme-Faivre et al., 1998). In Denver, Savit compared 356 children with cancer to 282
controls through random digit dialing. The study found an association between high current configuration
homes and twofold increase in cancer, but no association was found between EMF measurements and
cancer (Savit, 1999).
Ahlbom et al. give a comprehensive overview of the relevant epidemiology (Ahlbom et al., 2000). The
results from this suggested that childhood cancer mortality was associated with the existence of power
lines near the children’s homes, and particularly with such power lines that were indicative of high
magnetic field exposure. Although the implications by many were considered implausible, and despite
several methodological problems in the study, that work has been followed by several attempts to replicate
the findings. To date, close to 20 studies on childhood cancer and residential exposure to ELF fields have
been published (Ahlbom et al., 2000)
In parallel with the childhood cancer research, possible associations between other implicated diseases
and ELF fields have been explored. Most of this research was directed towards other forms of cancer:
brain tumours, leukemia in adults, and male and female breast cancer are forms that have attracted the
greatest interest. Despite these efforts, however, results have been inconclusive.
Outside the cancer field, cardiovascular disease may be the area that has attracted most of the interest.
This way based on physiological experiments which noted that ELF magnetic fields appeared to affect
heart rate variability (Sastre et al., 1998). These experiments were followed by a utility worker study
showing that chronic heart disease mortality was not associated with ELF exposure but that arrhythmia
and myocardial infarction mortality was (Savitz et al., 1999).

3. METHODOLOGY

Topographic maps of the Seberang Perai area were obtained from Tenaga Nasional Berhad, TNB at
Bandar Baru Perda, Pulau Pinang. These maps were used to locate streets running beneath or adjacent to
overhead transmission lines connecting substations in the national grid. Once the areas were identified,
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C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

research assistants were sent to locate houses within 200 metres from the extra-high-voltage transmission
lines and houses located more than 200 metres from any power line. Residents between the ages of 18 and
70 years who had resided for more than 6 months were invited to participate in the study. A total of 400
participants agreed to participate. 300 of the participants live near the extra-high-voltage transmission
lines whilst the other 100 participants (these are the controls) live far from the lines.
50-Hz magnetic field flux densities were measured using a single-axis Unilab Model H28729 magnetic
flux density meter. Spot measurements were taken at the gateways of participants’ houses and the
readings were recorded. Generally, spot measurements give a single, instantaneous measurement of the
magnitude of the magnetic field in one or more spots in a residence. Magnetic flux densities
measurements were done by one of the interviewers at the above house. The measurements were repeated
several times to get more accurate readings. The readings were then recorded and the average values were
calculated. All the values were tabulated for analysis purposes.
A questionnaire was developed specially for the study, to collect relevant demographic, general
behavioral and health information. The questionnaire is divided into three parts. The first part included
questions to determine age, gender, education, occupation and length of time living at present address.
The second part included questions on health problems and medication use, whereas in the last part of the
questionnaire, the participants were asked about their lifestyles. At the end of the questionnaire,
participants were asked to rate their general health over the past six months on a 5-point scale from
“terrible” to “excellent”.
Participants completed the questionnaires by mean of interviewing. The interviewers were trained on
all the skills relevant to data collection, which included making natural responses to typical questions by
participants about the effects of magnetic fields, questionnaire administration and field measurement.
Interviews took about 30 minutes and took place in a quiet area in each participant’s home at a time
convenient to the participants. Interviewers worked in pairs for personal safety reason and to facilitate
supervision of children during interview of a parent.
All the data entry and analysis will be done using Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS)
version 13.0 software, licensed to UiTM. Participants’ responses to questions about their health were
sorted into eight variables, which were analysed to test hypotheses about association between magnetic
field exposure and health problems. Four of these variables reflected either general health or particular
types of health problem. These variables are self-rated health, chronic illnesses, allergy-related illness and
autoimmune-related illness. The other four variables reflected specific diseases, namely colds and flu,
Type-II diabetes, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. In this paper, only the association of allergy-related
illness and magnetic field is discussed. The EMF exposures and characteristic of participants living near
and away from power lines were compared. The correlation between distance and the magnetic field
reading was analysed using Pearson Correlation. The association between the health condition of the
participants and the magnetic field reading was analysed using Chi-Square analysis.

4. RESULTS AD DISCUSSIOS

In this study, the sample consists of 400 respondents in Seberang Prai Utara and Seberang Prai Selatan.
The sample is divided into two groups. The first group is the 300 respondents who live near to the voltage
transmission line of which the distances from their houses are less than 200 meters. The second group (the
control group) is the 100 who live at a distance of more than 200 metres from the transmission line. The
demographic information of the two groups of respondents is as in Table 1.

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Table 1: Demographic Information

Control Group Study Group

Frequency Valid Percentage Frequency Valid Percentage


Percentage Percentage
Gender
Male 31 31 7.8 11 36.7 22.5
Female 69 69 17.3 190 63.3 47.5

Race
Malay 93 93 23.3 253 84.3 63.3
Chinese 0 0 0 8 2.7 3.0
Indians 0 0 0 29 9.7 7.3
Others 7 7 1.8 10 3.3 2.5

Age (yrs)
< 20 7 7 1.8 11 3.7 2.8
20 - 29 13 13 3..3 46 15.3 11.5
30 - 39 19 19 4.8 74 24.7 18.5
40 - 49 22 22 5.5 61 20.3 15.3
> 49 39 39 9.8 108 36 27.0

The reading of the magnetic field in this research was in the average of 0.0891 mT. In this study, the
reading of magnetic field is categorized into two categories. The first category comes from reading below
the average of 0.0891 mT and the second category is from reading above 0.089 mT as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Descriptive Statistics of Magnetic Field Reading

Mean Std. Deviation N


mT - Teslameter
.0891 .05335 300
(Magnetic field)
Distance 111.6130 57.76692 300

About the distance of a house from the transmission line, distance below mean, 111.613 meters, is
classified as distance nearer to the transmission line. Table 3 shows the cross tabulation between distance
and magnetic field exposure of the group.

Table 3: Magnetic field * distance Cross tabulation

Distance
0-111.613 >111.613 Total
Magnetic field (mT) <0.0891 56 90 146
>0.0891 89 65 154
Total 145 155 300

The measurements of power frequency magnetic fields depend on the distance of a house to the power
transmission lines. It is found that there is a negative correlation between distance and the magnetic field
reading, as in Table 4, r = - 0.433, p < 0.05. This indicates that a person is receiving less effect of the
magnetic field if he is staying a distance from the power transmission lines.

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Table 4: Correlations between distance and magnetic reading

Teslameter Distance
Pearson Correlation magnetic field Count -.433
Distance -.433 1.000
Sig. (1-ailed’, magnetic field . .000
Distance .000 .
N magnetic field 300 300
Distance 300 300

The distribution of the reading of the magnetic field is normally distributed. Thus, further
analyses on the data assumed that the data distributed normally. The following tables show the results of
the relationships between the groups with magnetic field exposure and the control group for a few allergy-
related illnesses, which includes Eczema, Urticaria, Dermatitis, Asthma, Psoriasis and others. Table 5
shows the number cases of all the allergy-related illnesses among the residents who are in the magnetic
field and the control group. Results of chi-square tests as in Table 6 shows that there are significant
associations between the effect of magnetic field and Eczema ( χ 22 = 10.036 , p < 0.05), between the effect
of magnetic field and Urticaria ( χ 22 = 15.227, p < 0.05), as well as between the effect of magnetic field and
asthma ( χ 22 = 4.124, p < 0.05). Other allergy-related illnesses do not show significant associations with
magnetic field.

Table 5: Cross tabulation of Magnetic Field Exposure of Control


and Samples and the Allergy-related Illness

Magnetic field
exposure
Allergy-related illness 0 1
Total
(Control (Study
Group) Group)
Eczema No 100 272 372
Yes 0 28 28
Total 100 300 400
Urticaria No 100 259 359
Yes 0 41 41
Total 100 300 400
Dermatitis No 100 267 358
Yes 0 33 42
Total 100 300 400
Athsma No 100 299 398
Yes 0 1 2
Total 100 300 400
Psoriasis No 100 298 397
Yes 0 2 3
Total 100 300 400

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Table 6: Chi-Square Tests - (Eczema -2a, urticaria-2a, asthma-2a)

Asymp. Sig.
Pearson Chi-Square Value df (2-sided)
Eczema -2a 10.036(b) 1 .002
urticaria-2a 15.227(b) 1 .000
asthma-2a 4.124(b) 1 .042

The following tables show the results of the relationships between the two groups (magnetic field less
than 0.0891 and magnetic field more than 0.0891) which is magnetic field and the control group for a few
allergy-related illness. Table 7 shows the number cases of the allergy-related illnesses among the residents
who are in the two different magnetic field areas and the control group. Results in Table 8 shows that
there are significant associations between the effect of magnetic field and Eczema ( χ 22 = 10.116 , p <
0.05), as well as between the effect of magnetic field and Urticaria ( χ 22 = 17.494, p < 0.05). Other allergy-
related illness do not show significant associations with magnetic field.

Table 7: Cross tabulation of Magnetic Field Exposure of Control and Two Study Groups of Samples and
the Allergy-related Illnesses

Magnetic field exposure


Allergy –related 0 Total
illness (Control 1 2
Group) <0.0891 >0.0891
Eczema
No 100 133 139 372
Yes 0 13 15 28
Total 100 146 154 400
Urticaria
No 100 130 129 359
Yes 0 16 25 41
Total 100 146 154 400
Dermatitis
No 100 146 153 358
Yes 0 0 1 42
Total 100 146 154 400
Athma
No 100 140 148 398
Yes 0 6 6 12
Total 100 146 154 400
Psoriasis
No 100 144 149 393
Yes 0 2 5 7
Total 100 146 154 400

Table 8: Chi-Square Tests- (eczema -2b, urticaria-2b)

Asymp. Sig. (2-


Pearson Chi-Square Value df sided)
eczema -2b 10.116(a) 2 .006
urticaria-2b 17.494(a) 2 .000

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Results of the relationships between the different categories of time duration and a few allergy-related
illnesses, which includes Eczema, Urticaria, Asthma, Psoriasis and others from the cross tabulation do not
shows any significant associations from the chi-square tests. No measures of association are computed for
the cross tabulation of the duration of time and Dermatitis because none of the residents has this disease.
The range of magnetic field exposure of the study group who stay near the transmission line i.e. less
than 200 m, extended from 0.1 mT to 0.24 mT, where the mean is at 0.0891 mT. Our results indicate that
for adults living near transmission lines there are significant associations between control and study
groups for eczema, urticaria and asthma. It can be concluded that some allergy- related illnesses would be
more prevalent in participants who stay near the transmission lines and with higher magnetic-field
exposure.
Eczema and urticaria, the allergy–related illnesses, were also strongly associated with exposure level
where the comparison between the control and the two groups of below and above mean shows significant
associations. Psoriasis however was not found to be associated with magnetic field exposure.
For autoimmune-related illness, statistic were only computed for rheumatoid arthiritis and Myasthenia
gravis. Results of the relationships between magnetic field exposure of adults and these autoimmune-
related illness show no significant associations between the two groups of respondents.
Table 9 shows the number cases of the autoimmune-related illnesses among the residents who are in
the magnetic field and the control group. Only the illness of Rheumatoid arthiritis from the results of chi-
square test as in Table 10 shows significant between autoimmune-related illnesses. Other autoimmune-
related illness do not show significant associations with magnetic field. Thus, the illness of Rheumatoid
arthiritis related to the magnetic field exposure.

Table 9: Crosstabulation of Magnetic Field Exposure of Control and Two Study Groups of
Samples and the Autoimmune-related Illnesses

Magnetic field exposure Magnetic field exposure


Autoimmune Autoimmune
-related Control Study Group Total -related Control Study Group Total
diseases Group diseases Group
0 1 2 0 1 2
Rheumatoid Crohn’s
arthiritis disease
No 72 120 106 298 No 99 144 154 397
Yes 28 26 48 102 Yes 1 2 0 3
Total 100 146 154 400 Total 100 146 154 400
Thyroiditis Myasthenia
gravis
No 97 143 153 393 No 89 127 127 343
Yes 3 3 1 7 Yes 11 19 27 57
Total 100 146 154 400 Total 100 146 154 400
Graves’ Multiple
disease sclerosis
No 100 143 152 395 No 100 144 150 394
Yes 0 3 2 5 Yes 0 2 4 6
Total 100 146 154 400 Total 100 146 154 400
Sjogren’ Goodpastures
syndrom ’s syndrome
No 99 145 151 395 No 100 145 154 399
Yes 1 1 3 5 Yes 0 1 0 1
Total 100 146 154 400 100 146 154 400
Ulcerative Others
colitis
No 99 145 154 398 No 95 137 151 383
Yes 1 1 0 2 Yes 5 9 3 17
Total 100 146 154 400 100 146 154 400

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C O N F E R E N C E ON S C I E N T I F I C & S O C I A L R E S E A R C H

Table 10 : Chi-Square Tests (Myasthenia gravis, Rheumatoid arthiritis-3b, Type II diabetes)

Asymp. Sig. (2-


Pearson Chi-Square Value df sided)
Rheumatoid arthiritis-
7.481 2 .024
3b
Myasthenia gravis 5.893 1 .015
Type II diabetes 6.383 1 .012

As for the relationship between time duration and autoimmune-related illness, results of chi-square
test do not shown any significant association, except for Myasthenia gravis as in Table 10. Also, there is
significant association between Type II diabetes and the time duration of exposure to the magnetic field.

5. COCLUSIOS

This study revealed that some allergy – related illness would prevalent in adults who stay near
transmission lines and with higher magnetic-field exposure. Eczema and urticaria, allergy – related illness
as well as rheumatoid arthritis representing autoimmune – related illness show significant associations
with exposure level between groups of respondents.
None of the allergy – related illness show significant association with time duration of exposure to the
magnetic field whereby Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune – related illness and Type II diabetes, a related
specific disease, revealed significant associations.

ACKOWLEDGEMET

This work was conducted under an IRDC UiTM Malaysia Research grant. The support from
Universiti Teknologi Mara is gratefully acknowledged.

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Paper number: 7527269