Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Largest Study Finds Evidence Of Association Between EMFs And Exposed Worker Suicide

Date:
March 16, 2000
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
A large and detailed study of the possible link between exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and suicide among electric utility workers has uncovered what appears to be a distinct association.

CHAPEL HILL -- A large and detailed study of the possible link between exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and suicide among electric utility workers has uncovered what appears to be a distinct association.

Electricians working for five U.S. power companies faced twice the expected risk of suicide, while linemen faced one-and-a-half times the expected risk, according to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study. Suicides among power plant operators occurred at a rate slightly lower than expected, researchers found.

Younger people appeared to be at greater risk of suicide than older ones, and higher, more recent exposures also seemed to boost the chances that workers might take their own lives.

A report on the study, which began with a group of 138,905 male U.S. electric utility workers, appears today (March 15) in the April issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Authors include doctoral student Edwin van Wijngaarden; Dr. David A. Savitz, professor and chair of epidemiology; Dr. Jianwen Cai, associate professor of biostatistics; and Dr. Dana Loomis, associate professor of epidemiology, all at the UNC-CH School of Public Health. Statistical programmer Dr. Robert C. Kleckner also contributed to the project.

"We believe this work is important because suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, and many people in this country are exposed to electromagnetic fields," van Wijngaarden said. "While these findings definitely do not prove EMFs cause suicide, they do indicate more research needs to be done on the effects of exposure on depression and suicide."

Using employment files, death certificates and other records, van Wijngaarden and colleagues found 536 suicides among current or former electric utility workers in the group between 1950 and 1986 and identified 5,348 non-suicides of the same race and age to serve as controls. Researchers also analyzed various job titles and duties and estimated occupational exposures to EMFs based on devices randomly selected workers wore to monitor exposures.

Why low frequency electromagnetic fields might contribute to suicide among chronically exposed workers is not known, van Wijngaarden said.

"One biologically plausible explanation is that EMFs depress production of melatonin, a hormone that’s important for sleep and mood," he said. "Decreases in melatonin can lead to depression, which in turn can lead to suicide."

Rats subjected to electromagnetic fields showed altered production and excretion of the hormone but comparable data on humans is limited and inconclusive, the scientist said. The possibility suggested by the new findings that EMFs could affect young workers more than older ones is entirely new, he added.

The Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, Calif., supported the study. Cooperating electric utility companies were Carolina Power and Light Co., Pacific Gas and Electric, PECO Energy Co., Tennessee Valley Authority and Virginia Electric Power Co.

van Wijngaarden and colleagues did the new study because other work in the early 1980s found indications of an association between EMFs and suicide, but later studies could not replicate those findings.

Women were excluded because at the time they rarely worked as electricians, linemen or power plant operators. Researchers could not control for past mental health problems, addictions and family disturbances such as divorce since such information was not available.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Largest Study Finds Evidence Of Association Between EMFs And Exposed Worker Suicide." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000316070218.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (2000, March 16). Largest Study Finds Evidence Of Association Between EMFs And Exposed Worker Suicide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000316070218.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Largest Study Finds Evidence Of Association Between EMFs And Exposed Worker Suicide." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000316070218.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) The respiratory virus Enterovirus D68, which targets children, has spread from the Midwest to 21 states. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contagious Respiratory Illness Continues to Spread Across U.S.

Contagious Respiratory Illness Continues to Spread Across U.S.

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 12, 2014) Hundreds of children in several states have been stricken by a serious respiratory illness that is spreading across the U.S. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Batters Sierra Leone Economy Too

Ebola Batters Sierra Leone Economy Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 12, 2014) The World Health Organisation warns that local health workers in West Africa can't keep up with Ebola - and among those countries hardest hit by the outbreak, the economic damage is coming into focus, too. As David Pollard reports, Sierra Leone admits that growth in one of the poorest economies in the region is taking a beating. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins