Doctors examined the effects of electromagnetic fields
Electromagnetic fields can have negative health effects. People in some professions are very often exposed to electromagnetic fields, which, according to a recent study, can lead to people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The researchers at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University found that strong electromagnetic fields can lead to ALS. There is currently no cure for the disease. Sick people usually die within a few years of being diagnosed. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Occupational & Environmental Medicine".
Some professions increase the risk of ALS
In some professions, people are constantly exposed to high electromagnetic fields. Such professions include, for example, pilots and welders. The occurring fields increase the risk of developing the incurable degenerative disease of the motor nervous system called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the authors explain.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is very rare
The disease occurs very rarely. There are just two new cases per 100,000 people every year, the experts say. ALS is most common in people between the ages of 55 and 65. Researchers suspect that there is a link between electromagnetic fields and progressive degeneration of the motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Certain jobs can double the risk of ALS
If people are constantly exposed to extremely low electromagnetic fields at their workplaces, those affected have a twice as high risk of developing ALS compared to people without exposure to electromagnetic fields, the scientists from Utrecht University explain in the defeats.
So far, the source of the nerve disease has been relatively unclear
The experts say that high-frequency electromagnetic fields are generated by electrical devices, power tools and the power grid. Earlier studies had indicated that ALS is related to workplace exposure. However, this connection was difficult to prove. Other scientists suspected that sources of the nerve disorder could be electric shocks, solvents, metals, and pesticides.
Doctors analyzed the data from 120,000 subjects
For their current study, the researchers examined the medical records of around 120,000 men and women. The subjects were medically monitored for a period of 17 years. The investigation began for participants at the age of 55 and ended at 69.
136 subjects died within the study period
Seventy-six men and sixty women who died from ALS during this period were compared to a control group of around 4,000 randomly selected people, the scientists explain. The workplaces of those affected showed a significant exposure to electromagnetic fields. There was no significant correlation with other suspected sources, the researchers add.
Electromagnetic fields appear to be an avoidable cause for ALS
The current study provides much better information about exposure to magnetic fields than previous studies, say the experts. If the results are correct, electromagnetic fields can be classified as a previously unknown, preventable cause of ALS. However, the biological mechanism behind such exposure is still unclear, the researchers report.
Which professions are particularly at risk?
Workplaces with a high exposure to electromagnetic fields include, for example, electrical installers, cable distributors, welders and aircraft pilots. However, the disease can of course also affect people in other professional groups. The most famous sufferer from ALS is probably the British physicist Stephen Hawking. (as)