Abstracts related to the Contact Current Hypothesis

See a full explanation of the Contact Current Hypothesis, an alternative suggestion for the epidemiological findings on childhood leukaemia.

Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2014 Oct 24.
Computational dosimetry for child and adult human models due to contact current from  10 Hz TO 110 MHz.
Chan KH, Ohta S, Laakso I, Hirata A, Suzuki Y, Kavet R.This study computationally investigates in situ electric field due to low-frequency contact current and specific absorption rate (SAR) due to high-frequency contact currents in a realistic child model and compared with those in the adult model. The in situ electric fields and SAR in the child model are found to exceed the corresponding values in the adult. At the finger tip, the electric field and SAR due to contact currents, both at the ICNIRP reference levels and IEEE Maximum Permissible Exposures, are well beyond the corresponding basic restrictions. In the remaining part, the largest difference was observed in spinal tissue, and the smallest effect was in the heart. With respect to brain and skin conductivities, one needs to strongly consider which values of tissue properties are used to interpret one's results. The in situ electric fields resulting from contact with the metal plane are similar to those for contact with the wire.

Radiat Res. 2011 Mar;175(3):390-6.
Exposure to electrical contact currents and the risk of childhood leukemia.
Does M, Scélo G, Metayer C, Selvin S, Kavet R, Buffler P.The objectives of this study were to examine the association between contact current exposure and the risk of childhood leukemia and to investigate the relationship between residential contact currents and magnetic fields. Indoor and outdoor contact voltage and magnetic-field measurements were collected for the diagnosis residence of 245 cases and 269 controls recruited in the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study (2000-2007). Logistic regression techniques produced odds ratios (OR) adjusted for age, sex, Hispanic ethnicity, mother's race and household income. No statistically significant associations were seen between childhood leukemia and indoor contact voltage level [exposure ≥90th percentile (10.5 mV): OR  =  0.83, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.45, 1.54], outdoor contact voltage level [exposure ≥90th percentile (291.2 mV): OR  =  0.89, 95% CI: 0.48, 1.63], or indoor magnetic-field levels (>0.20 µT: OR  =  0.76, 95% CI: 0.30, 1.93). Contact voltage was weakly correlated with magnetic field; correlation coefficients were r  =  0.10 (P  =  0.02) for indoor contact voltage and r  =  0.15 (P  =  0.001) for outdoor contact voltage. In conclusion, in this California population, there was no evidence of an association between childhood leukemia and exposure to contact currents or magnetic fields and a weak correlation between measures of contact current and magnetic fields.
Radiat Res. 2011 Dec;176(6):807-15.
The relationship between residential magnetic fields and contact voltage: a pooled analysis.
Kavet R, Hooper C, Buffler P, Does M.It has been suggested that residential exposure to contact currents may be more directly associated with the potential for an increased risk of leukemia in childhood than magnetic fields. Contact current exposure occurs when a child contacts a bathtub's water fixtures, which are usually contiguous with a residence's electrical ground, and when the drainpipe is conductive. The Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study (NCCLS) is the only epidemiological study known to address whether contact current may confound the reported association between residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. The study contributed contact voltage and magnetic-field data for over 500 residences of leukemia cases and control children. We combined these data with the results of previous measurement studies of contact voltage in other communities to conduct an analysis of the relationship of magnetic fields with contact voltage for a total sample of 702 residences. The Spearman correlation of magnetic field with contact voltage was 0.29 (Spearman, P < 0.0001). Magnetic-field and contact voltage data were both divided into tertiles, with an upper magnetic-field cutpoint of 0.3 μT suggested by values used in epidemiological results and an upper contact voltage cutpoint of 60 mV based on dosimetric considerations. Expressed as an exposure odds ratios (EOR), we report an association of contact voltage with magnetic fields of 15.1 (95% CI 3.6-61) as well as a statistically significant positive trend across magnetic-field strata (EOR of 4.2 per stratum with 95% CI 2.4-7.4). The associations appear to be large enough to support the possibility that contact current could be responsible for the association of childhood leukemia with magnetic fields.
Health Phys. 2009 Oct;97(4):332-42.
Residential magnetic fields and measures of neutral-to-earth voltage: variability within and between residences.
Kavet R, Hooper HC.The objectives of this study were to characterize temporal patterns of magnetic fields (Bavg) and two measures of neutral-to-earth voltage: the voltage between the water line and earth (VW-E), and the voltage between bathtub plumbing fixtures and the drain (Vbath). The latter is a source of exposure to contact current in bathing children that has been proposed to explain the reported association between power-frequency magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. These quantities were measured each minute in a sample of 15 single-detached residences in San Jose, CA. Generally, Bavg, VW-E, and Vbath were positively correlated with each other within residences, and displayed similar diurnal patterns. Weekday and weekend patterns displayed qualitative differences that reflect the more scheduled workday for weekdays, and a less structured pattern for weekends. When pooled with two prior measurement studies, positive associations across residences between Bavg and both VW-E and Vbath were observed. Home designs over the past 30-40 years have lead to a decreasing prevalence of Vbath as conductive drains have been swapped out for non-conductive materials. Nonetheless, the observed relationships within and across residences indicate that contact current has the characteristics of a factor that could explain the association of magnetic fields with childhood leukemia.
Health Phys. 2006 Dec;91(6):592-607.
Residential magnetic fields, contact voltage and their relationship: the effects of distribution unbalance and residential proximity to a transmission line.
Kavet R, Daigle JP, Zaffanella LE.In previous studies, modeling and measurements have suggested a positive relationship between the average residential magnetic field (B(avg)) and the voltage from the residential water line to earth (V(W-E)). This voltage is the source of exposure to contact current that has been hypothesized to behave as a confounder with respect to the association between residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. The previous modeling effort has only considered the influence of distribution lines on the B(avg):V(W-E) relationship. This study extends that analysis to include the effect of distribution line unbalance and the presence of nearby transmission lines. The results show that, compared to balanced systems, unbalanced distribution systems had increased B(avg) and V(W-E), with a relatively greater effect on (VW-E). The presence of a transmission line proportionally increased B(avg) and V(W-E) more on balanced systems than unbalanced systems and attenuated the relationship of B(avg) with V(W-E) on systems with 25% unbalance. Increases in B(avg) due to the transmission line were confined to distances within 100-200 m of the line, but increases in V(W-E) extended to the furthest distance included in the model (365 m). The observations reported may be relevant to prior epidemiological studies of magnetic fields and childhood leukemia, and suggest that research efforts continue to explore the role of contact current in potentially explaining those studies.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2005;Suppl 7:S75-85.
Contact current hypothesis: summary of results to date.
Kavet R.Research conducted over the past 5 years has addressed the hypothesis that the reported association between residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia may be explained by exposure to contact current. The use of multi-grounded neutrals in electrical distribution and residential electrical wiring systems in the United States results in a voltage on a residence's water line relative to earth that in turn creates a voltage between the water fixtures of a bathtub, sink, or shower and the drain, if the latter is made of conductive material. A bathing child may thus be exposed to contact current upon manual contact with the faucet, spout, or water stream. Dosimetry modeling indicates that modest and realistically anticipated currents (10s of microA) can produce electric fields in bone marrow (100s of mV/m) sufficient to overcome questions of biophysical plausibility. Both measurements in two regions of the United States and computer modeling of typical single-residence US neighborhoods indicate that residences with average magnetic fields in the high tail of the magnetic field distribution are more likely than residences with lower fields to also have higher contact voltage. The association of residential magnetic fields with contact voltage, the dosimetry results, and the indication from a behavioral survey that children tend to engage in behavior that results in exposure all support the hypothesis. Further research is needed to characterize electrical systems in other nations to determine whether contact current exposure occurs and whether it is associated with residential magnetic fields.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2004 Oct;25(7):530-6.
Association of residential magnetic fields with contact voltage.
Kavet R, Zaffanella LE, Pearson RL, Dallapiazza J.The US National Electrical Code's (NEC) requirement to ground a home's electrical service to the residential water line results in a voltage between the water line and earth, V W-E. The voltage may result from ground return current that flows into the earth via the water line or from inductive effects from other sources of magnetic fields, such as transmission lines. This voltage can, in turn, serve as a source for Vbath, the voltage between the water fixtures and conductive drain pipes sunk into the earth beneath a residence. Vbath can be a source of contact current exposure to a child touching a water fixture while bathing. Previous research has suggested that exposure to these currents could be the basis for the association between power-frequency magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. In this study, we assessed the association between measured Vbath and VW-E with the average spot-measured magnetic field, Bavg, in a sample of 191 single-family residences in the Denver metropolitan area. This area was the source of cases and controls for previous studies of electric and magnetic field (EMF) and childhood cancer. The association of both Vbath and VW-E with Bavg had upward trends across magnetic field strata (<0.1 microT (reference); 0.1-<0.3 microT; and > or = 0.3 microT). In addition, VW-E was associated with Vbath. Without further study, these results cannot be applied to multi-dwelling residences or to electrical systems prevalent in other nations. Nonetheless, when combined with the finding that contact current is a far more plausible candidate than the residential magnetic field for mediating biological effects on the basis of comparative dose to bone marrow, these associations indicate that contact current exposure deserves further study.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2002 Sep;23(6):464-74.
Contact voltage measured in residences: implications to the association between magnetic fields and childhood leukemia.
Kavet R, Zaffanella LE.We measured magnetic fields and two sources of contact current in 36 homes in Pittsfield, MA. The first source, V(P-W), is the voltage due to current in the grounding wire, which extends from the service panel neutral to the water service line. This voltage can cause contact current to flow upon simultaneous contact with a metallic part of the water system, such as the faucet, and the frame of an appliance, which is connected to the panel neutral through the equipment-grounding conductor. The second is V(W-E), the voltage between the water pipe and earth, attributable to ground currents in the water system and magnetic induction from nearby power lines. In homes with conductive water systems and drains, V(W-E) can produce a voltage between the faucet and drain, which may produce contact current into an individual contacting the faucet while immersed in a bathtub. V(P-W) was not strongly correlated to the magnetic field (both log transformed) (r = 0.28; P < 0.1). On the other hand, V(W-E) was correlated to the residential magnetic field (both log transformed) (r = 0.54; P < 0.001), with the highest voltages occurring in homes near high voltage transmission lines, most likely due to magnetic induction on the grounding system. This correlation, combined with both frequent exposure opportunity for bathing children and substantial dose to bone marrow resulting from contact, lead us to suggest that contact current due to V(W-E) could explain the association between high residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia.
Health Phys. 2002 Sep;83(3):387-94.
Candidate sites of action for microdosimetry associated with exposure to extremely-low-frequency magnetic fields, electric fields and contact currents.
Sastre A, Kavet R.Recent advances enable one to apply numerical techniques to anatomically-correct human models to compute current densities and electric fields in tissue due to exposure to electric fields, magnetic fields, or contact currents. These methods have proved to be informative in estimating exceedance of basic restrictions prescribed by exposure guideline organizations. To date, the analyses have been conducted with a resolution on the order of millimeters. However, these techniques have future roles to play at higher levels of resolution at those sites in target tissues suspected of transducing local electric fields into biological responses. Two specific cases in which high resolution "microdosimetry" would yield value involve (a) residential settings and childhood leukemia and (b) worker exposure and cardiovascular disease. Recent research suggests that residential contact currents on the order of microamperes can produce biologically significant dose (expressed as the local electric field) to the bone marrow of a child. Microdosimetry would focus on pluripotent progenitor cells resident in the marrow compartment, as well as anatomic features that distinguish a child's from an adult's marrow. Laboratory and epidemiologic research has suggested that magnetic field exposure may affect heart rate variability, a measure reflective of autonomic nervous system control of cardiac activity. Given the physical attributes of the central nervous system and the sites that could serve as substrates for field interactions, future microdosimetry addressing heart rate variability effects may be well-advised to focus on the electrically excitable dendritic arborizations of neurons. In both cases, microdosimetry will help shed light on primary interactions in tissue.
IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2001 Sep;48(9):1020-6.
Electric fields in the human body resulting from 60-Hz contact currents.
Dawson TW, Caputa K, Stuchly MA, Kavet R.Contact currents occur when a person touches conductive surfaces at different potentials and completes a path for current flow through the body. Such currents provide an additional coupling mechanism to that, due to the direct field effect between the human body and low-frequency external fields. The scalar potential finite difference method, with minor modifications, is applied to assess current density and electric field within excitable tissue and bone marrow due to contact current. An anatomically correct adult model is used, as well as a proportionally downsized child model. Three pathways of contact current are modeled: hand to opposite hand and both feet, hand to hand only, and hand to both feet. Because of its larger size relative to the child, the adult model has lower electric field and current-density values in tissues/unit of contact current. For a contact current of 1 mA [the occupational reference level set by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Protection (ICNIRP)], the current density in brain does not exceed the basic restriction of 10 mA/m2. The restriction is exceeded slightly in the spine, and by a factor of more than 2 in the heart. For a contact current of 0.5 mA (ICNIRP general public reference level), the basic restriction of 2 mA/m2 is exceeded several-fold in the spine and heart. Several microamperes of contact current produces tens of mV/m within the child's lower arm bone marrow.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2000 Oct;21(7):538-53.
The possible role of contact current in cancer risk associated with residential magnetic fields.
Kavet R, Zaffanella LE, Daigle JP, Ebi KL.Residential electrical wiring safety practices in the US result in the possibility of a small voltage (up to a few tenths of a volt) on appliance surfaces with respect to water pipes or other grounded surfaces. This "open circuit voltage" (V(OC)) will cause "contact current" to flow in a person who touches the appliance and completes an electrical circuit to ground. This paper presents data suggesting that contact current due to V(OC) is an exposure that may explain the reported associations of residential magnetic fields with childhood leukemia. Our analysis is based on a computer model of a 40 house (single-unit, detached dwelling) neighborhood with electrical service that is representative of US grounding practices. The analysis was motivated by recent research suggesting that the physical location of power lines in the backyard, in contrast to the street, may be relevant to a relationship of power lines with childhood leukemia. In the model, the highest magnetic field levels and V(OC)s were both associated with backyard lines, and the highest V(OC)s were also associated with long ground paths in the residence. Across the entire neighborhood, magnetic field exposure was highly correlated with V(OC) (r = 0.93). Dosimetric modeling indicates that, compared to a very high residential level of a uniform horizontal magnetic field (10 mu T) or a vertical electric field (100 V/m), a modest level of contact current (approximately 18 mu A) leads to considerably greater induced electric fields (> 1 mV/m) averaged across tissue, such as bone marrow and heart. The correlation of V(OC) with magnetic fields in the model, combined with the dose estimates, lead us to conclude that V(OC) is a potentially important exposure with respect to childhood leukemia risks associated with residential magnetic fields. These findings, nonetheless, may not apply to residential service used in several European countries or to the Scandinavian studies concerned with populations exposed to magnetic fields from overhead transmission lines.

See also:

A full discussion of the contact current hypothesis