Asthma

 In 2011, a study in California, originally set up to look at any link between magnetic fields and pregnancy outcomes, reported a link between the exposure of the mothers during pregnancy and the subsequent risk of their children getting asthma.
 
This was a bit of a surprise, because there had not been previously been any suggestion of this sort of a link.  Among other responses, a new study looking at the same thing using high quality data in Denmark was set up.
 
That reported results in 2017.  It did not find any link.
 

The abstracts of the two studies:

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011 Oct;165(10):945-50.

Maternal exposure to magnetic fields during pregnancy in relation to the risk of asthma in offspring.

Li DK, Chen H, Odouli R.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine whether maternal exposure to high levels of magnetic fields (MFs) during pregnancy is associated with the risk of asthma in offspring.

DESIGN:

A prospective cohort study.

SETTING:

Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

PARTICIPANTS:

Pregnant Kaiser Permanente Northern California members in the San Francisco area.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Asthma was clinically diagnosed among 626 children who were followed up for as long as 13 years. All participants carried a meter to measure their MF levels during pregnancy.

RESULTS:

After adjustment for potential confounders, a statistically significant linear dose-response relationship was observed between increasing maternal median daily MF exposure level in pregnancy and an increased risk of asthma in offspring: every 1-mG increase of maternal MF level during pregnancy was associated with a 15% increased rate of asthma in offspring (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.27). Using the categorical MF level, the results showed a similar dose-response relationship: compared with the children whose mothers had a low MF level (median 24-hour MF level, ≤0.3 mG) during pregnancy, children whose mothers had a high MF level (>2.0 mG) had more than a 3.5-fold increased rate of asthma (aHR, 3.52; 95% CI, 1.68-7.35), while children whose mothers had a medium MF level (>0.3-2.0 mG) had a 74% increased rate of asthma (aHR, 1.74; 95% CI, 0.93-3.25). A statistically significant synergistic interaction was observed between the MF effect and a maternal history of asthma and birth order (firstborn).

CONCLUSION:

Our findings provide new epidemiological evidence that high maternal MF levels in pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma in offspring.

PLoS One. 2017 May 17;12(5):e0177651.

Re-examining the association between residential exposure to magnetic fields from power lines and childhood asthma in the Danish National Birth Cohort.

Sudan M, Arah OA, Becker T, Levy Y, Sigsgaard T, Olsen J, Vergara X, Kheifets L.

 

BACKGROUND:

A study reported an increased risk of asthma in children whose mothers were exposed to magnetic field (MF) levels above 0.2 μT during pregnancy. We re-examined this association using data from mothers and children in the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC).

METHODS:

This study included 92,676 singleton-born children and their mothers from the DNBC. MF exposure from power lines was estimated for all residences where the mothers lived during pregnancy and for all children from birth until the end of follow up. Exposure was categorized into 0 μT, 0.1 μT, and ≥ 0.2 μT for analysis. Definitive and possible asthma cases were identified using data from three independent data sources: 1) mothers' reports, 2) a national hospitalization register, 3) a national prescription drug register. We calculated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between the highest level of exposure during pregnancy and asthma in children, adjusting for several potential confounding factors. We also examined the sensitivity of the risk estimates to changes in exposure and outcome definitions.

RESULTS:

No differences or trends in the risk of asthma development were detected between children with different levels of MF exposure regardless of the asthma case definition or outcome data source. For definitive cases, the HR (95% CI) for those with any exposure was 0.72 (0.27-1.92), and it was 0.41 (0.06-2.92) for those exposed to ≥ 0.2 μT. Adjustments for confounding and variations in the exposure definition did not appreciably alter the results.

CONCLUSION:

We did not find evidence that residential exposure to MF during pregnancy or early childhood increased the risk of childhood asthma. This interpretation is in line with the lack of an established biological mechanism directly linking MF exposure to asthma, but high exposure was very rare in this cohort.