Nov 5, 2021

Estimated All-Day and Evening Whole-Brain Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields Doses, and Sleep in Preadolescents

Alba Cabré-Riera, Luuk van Wel, Ilaria Liorni, M. Elisabeth Koopman-Verhoeff, Liher Imaz, Jesús Ibarluzea, Anke Huss, Joe Wiart, Roel Vermeulen, Wout Joseph, Myles Capstick, Martine Vrijheid, Elisabeth Cardis, Martin Röösli, Marloes Eeftens, Arno Thielens, Henning Tiemeier, Mònica Guxens, Environmental Research 2021, 112291, online 29 October 2021; doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112291

The objective of this study was to investigate the association of estimated all-day and evening whole-brain radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) doses with sleep disturbances and objective sleep measures in preadolescents. Preadolescents aged 9 – 12 years from two population-based birth cohorts were included in the study, the Dutch Generation R Study (n = 974) and the Spanish INfancia y Medio Ambiente Project (n = 868). All-day and evening overall whole-brain RF-EMF doses (mJ/kg/day) were estimated for several RF-EMF sources, including mobile and digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) phone calls (named phone calls), other mobile phone uses, tablet use, laptop use (named screen activities), and far-field sources. All-day and evening whole-brain RF-EMF doses (i.e., phone calls, screen activities, and far-field) were also separately estimated for these three exposure types. The Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children (SDSC) was completed by mothers to assess sleep disturbances. Wrist accelerometers together with sleep diaries were used to measure sleep characteristics objectively for seven consecutive days. All-day whole-brain RF-EMF doses were found to be not associated with self-reported sleep disturbances and objective sleep measures. Regarding evening doses, preadolescents with high evening whole-brain RF-EMF doses from phone calls had shorter total sleep times compared to preadolescents with zero evening whole-brain RF-EMF doses from phone calls [−11.9 min (95%CI −21.2; −2.5)]. The findings suggest evenings are potentially relevant as a window of RF-EMF exposure that impacts sleep. However, the possibility that the observed associations are due to the activities or reasons motivating the phone calls rather than the RF-EMF exposure itself or due to chance finding cannot be excluded.

The scientific and technical impact of the study can be summarized as:

  • Data from two cohorts were used to assess subjective sleep disturbances (SDSC) and objective sleep characteristics (wrist actigraphy, sleep logs)
  • All-day and evening whole-brain RF-EMF doses (mJ/kg/day) were estimated for several types of RF-EMF exposures through an integrative RF-EMF exposure model
  • No association between all-day whole-brain RF-EMF doses and the assessed sleep characteristics sleep was found
  • The data indicate that evening whole-brain RF-EMF dose from phone calls is related to shorter total sleep time, however this association may be due to confounding factors or chance