Motor neuron disease risk and magnetic field exposures

Tom Sorahan, Linda Nichols

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Many studies have investigated magnetic field exposure and the risks of motor neuron disease (MND). Meta-analyses have found positive associations but a causal relationship has not been established.

To investigate the risks of MND and occupational exposure to magnetic fields in a large UK cohort.

Mortality of 37 986 employees of the former Central Electricity Generating Board of England and Wales was investigated for the period 1987–2018. Employees were first employed in the period 1942–82 and were still in employment on the 1 November, 1987. Detailed calculations enabled estimates to be made of magnetic field exposures. Observed deaths were compared with expected numbers based on mortality rates for the general population of England and Wales and Poisson regression was used to calculate rate ratios (relative risks) for categories of lifetime, lagged (distant) and lugged (recent) magnetic field exposure.

Mortality from MND in the total cohort was similar to national rates (observed 69, expected 71.3, SMR 97, 95% CI 76–122). There were no statistically significant trends of risks increasing with lifetime, recent or distant magnetic field exposure, although positive associations were observed for some categories of recent exposure.

The study did not find that the cohort had elevated risks of MND as a consequence of occupational lifetime exposure to magnetic fields, although a possible role for recent exposures could usefully be investigated in other datasets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOccupational Medicine
Early online date23 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2021


  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • motor neuron disease
  • magnetic fields


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