Representative survey on idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields in Taiwan and comparison with the international literature

Po Chang Huang, Meng Ting Cheng, How Ran Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Electromagnetic hypersensitivity refers to health effects attributed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure and has been formally named "idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields" (IEI-EMF) by the World Health Organization. Because of the growing use of cell phones, IEI-EMF has become a global public health concern. A survey in 2007 in Taiwan showed that the prevalence rate of IEI-EMF was 13.3%, which is higher than rates in studies conducted previously. The survey also found that the rate was higher in women. Methods: To evaluate whether the prevalence rate of IEI-EMF is increasing and to verify the higher risk in women, we conducted a nationwide questionnaire survey using the same methods as the 2007 survey to assess the change in the prevalence rate of IEI-EMF in Taiwan. We also conducted a review of the literature and a meta-analysis to evaluate the changes in the prevalence rate around the world. Results: On the basis of the representative sample of 3303 participants, we found that the prevalence rate of IEI-EMF in Taiwan declined from 13.3% to 4.6% over a period of 5 years. The literature review also found the prevalence rates in other countries to be decreasing, instead of increasing as predicted previously. The meta-analysis of the data from the literature showed that women are more likely to have IEI-EMF than men, with an odds ratio of 1.19 (95% confidence interval: 1.01 - 1.40). Conclusions: We found the prevalence rate of IEI-EMF has been declining, instead of increasing as predicted previously. Women are more likely to report having IEI-EMF than men. Further studies to explore the causes leading to the declines may help the public, scientific community, and government deal with idiopathic intolerance to other environmental exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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