Kaiser Permanente recently completed a research study linking maternal exposure to magnetic fields to asthma risk in children. The report was published in the online version of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. There were 801 women included in the study. All women were seen at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. Electronic health records were used to follow children born to affected women for 13 years post birth. 

Participants in the study were asked to wear a small monitoring device during pregnancy. The device measured EMF, listed as a possible cause of cancer. EMF is emitted by microwave ovens and hair dryers, among other household devices. The study focused on low frequency magnetic fields, not high frequency fields like the ones put off by wireless networks and cell phones. 

Women with the highest exposure to magnetic frequencies during pregnancy gave birth to children three times more likely to suffer from asthma, compared to children born to women with low exposure. De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, lead author of the study expressed the need for further study to replicate the results. “While the replication of the finding is needed, the message here is exposure to electromagnetic fields is not good, and we need to pay attention to its adverse effect on health.”

Magnetic fields are all around us, so pregnant women cannot avoid MFs all-together, but they can reduce risk of exposure my moving away from devices known to emit magnetic fields. Household appliances like microwaves only emit magnetic fields when in use, so avoidance is as simple as walking into another room. Distance is the key, say researchers. The wider the distance between the pregnant woman and the magnetic field, the smaller the exposure. 

Researchers also noted that amount of exposure played a huge role in increased asthma risk. The higher the exposure amount, the higher the risk of asthma in children. Pregnant women may not be able to avoid magnetic fields, but they can reduce the total amount of risk by avoiding the magnetic fields whenever possible. 

Source: California Public Health Foundation. Hong Chen, MPH, and Roxana Odouli, MSPH. 2 August, 2011. 

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