NLEON-EMF - Neurodegenerative diseases and other chronic disease in relation to long-term electromagnetic field exposure

Like many developed countries, the age structure of Switzerland has changed substantially over the past few decades with a demographic shift toward an aging population. The social, economic and health implications of this shift, and adequate provision and care for the aging population, is a priority. With increasing life expectancy, it is also projected that the number of individuals suffering from neurodegenerative diseases will increase. In parallel, there is growing concern that long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields, including extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF), could be related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The role of ELF-MF in other chronic diseases including cancers and adverse birth outcomes is also a concern. With high voltage power transmission lines and railway lines as the main environmental sources of ELF-MF, NLEON-EMF aims to gain understanding of the long-term effects of ELF-MF exposure from these sources in the general population. The objectives are to spatially model exposure to ELF-MF from transmission and railway lines for all residential locations within Switzerland, linking this to the Swiss National Cohort (SNC) accounting for residential history. Longitudinal analyses will then be conducted to determine the associations between residential ELF-MF exposure and mortality in adults, from specific neurodegenerative diseases, brain tumours and malignancies of the hematopoietic system, as well as mortality in children. Leveraging the SNC offers near-complete national population coverage, with practically no selection bias, circumventing some potential issues in previous smaller studies. NLEON-EMF will be the most comprehensive ELF-MF study to date, and should help shed light on the uncertainty due to previously reported mixed findings, in particular on the neurodegenerative risks.

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