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Memory performance, wireless communication and exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: A prospective cohort study in adolescents

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Author Schoeni Anna, Roser Katharina, Röösli Martin,
Project HERMES: Health Effects Related to Mobile Phone Use in Adolescents
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Environment International
Volume (Issue) 85
Page(s) 343 - 351
Title of proceedings Environment International
DOI 10.1016/j.envint.2015.09.025

Abstract

© 2015 . Background: The aim of this study is to investigate whether memory performance in adolescents is affected by radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from wireless device use or by the wireless device use itself due to non-radiation related factors in that context. Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study with 439 adolescents. Verbal and figural memory tasks at baseline and after one year were completed using a standardized, computerized cognitive test battery. Use of wireless devices was inquired by questionnaire and operator recorded mobile phone use data was obtained for a subgroup of 234 adolescents. RF-EMF dose measures considering various factors affecting RF-EMF exposure were computed for the brain and the whole body. Data were analysed using a longitudinal approach, to investigate whether cumulative exposure over one year was related to changes in memory performance. All analyses were adjusted for relevant confounders. Results: The kappa coefficients between cumulative mobile phone call duration and RF-EMF brain and whole body dose were 0.62 and 0.67, respectively for the whole sample and 0.48 and 0.28, respectively for the sample with operator data. In linear exposure-response models an interquartile increase in cumulative operator recorded mobile phone call duration was associated with a decrease in figural memory performance score by 0.15 (95% CI: 0.33, 0.03) units. For cumulative RF-EMF brain and whole body dose corresponding decreases in figural memory scores were 0.26 (95% CI: 0.42, 0.10) and 0.40 (95% CI: 0.79, 0.01), respectively. No exposure-response associations were observed for sending text messages and duration of gaming, which produces tiny RF-EMF emissions. Conclusions: A change in memory performance over one year was negatively associated with cumulative duration of wireless phone use and more strongly with RF-EMF dose. This may indicate that RF-EMF exposure affects memory performance.
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