Abstracts: ISEE 21st Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, August 25–29, 2009: Symposium Abstracts: Symposia Presentations
Whether exposure to mobile telecommunication networks including base stations might negatively affect health and well-being is of public concern. While laboratory studies have illustrated that concern about the exposure may increase symptoms (nocebo effect), some epidemiologic studies using self-reported exposure as an exposure proxy showed an association between exposure to mobile phone base stations and self-reported well-being.
Facing these contradictory findings, mainly cross-sectional population-based studies were recently set-up in a variety of countries (e.g., Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK) using personal or stationary measurements or modified phones to assess exposure and self-reported symptoms as outcome. The objectives were (depending on the study) to identify 1) population exposure levels, 2) factors predicting individual exposure levels and 3) a potential association between exposure and well-being.
All studies indicated exposure levels well below the standard limits. Exposure levels were reproducible over one week. The major challenge was the limit of determination of the exposimeters as a large part of the measurements resulted in values below the limit. Individual exposure was determined by exposure to mobile phone base stations, use of cellular and wireless phones. While an association between self-reported exposure, concerns and well-being could sometimes be shown, no dose-response relationship between measured exposure and symptoms was found. However, two of the studies confirmed recent findings that exposure to mobile telecommunication networks might weakly be associated with behavioural problems in youngsters.
In conclusion, the nocebo effect described in laboratory studies could be reproduced in epidemiologic studies. Up to now, no consistent association between measured exposure and well-being could be shown across the age groups. Whether the association found between mobile telecommunication networks and behavioural problems might be due to the electromagnetic fields, the use of the mobile phones themselves or bias has to be shown in prospective studies.