Objective To determine whether maternal exposure to high levels of magnetic fields (MFs) during pregnancy is associated with the risk of asthma in offspring.
Design A prospective cohort study.
Setting Kaiser Permanente Northern California.
Participants Pregnant Kaiser Permanente Northern California members in the San Francisco area.
Main Outcome Measures Asthma was clinically diagnosed among 626 children who were followed up for as long as 13 years. All participants carried a meter to measure their MF levels during pregnancy.
Results After adjustment for potential confounders, a statistically significant linear dose-response relationship was observed between increasing maternal median daily MF exposure level in pregnancy and an increased risk of asthma in offspring: every 1-mG increase of maternal MF level during pregnancy was associated with a 15% increased rate of asthma in offspring (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.27). Using the categorical MF level, the results showed a similar dose-response relationship: compared with the children whose mothers had a low MF level (median 24-hour MF level, ≤0.3 mG) during pregnancy, children whose mothers had a high MF level (>2.0 mG) had more than a 3.5-fold increased rate of asthma (aHR, 3.52; 95% CI, 1.68-7.35), while children whose mothers had a medium MF level (>0.3-2.0 mG) had a 74% increased rate of asthma (aHR, 1.74; 95% CI, 0.93-3.25). A statistically significant synergistic interaction was observed between the MF effect and a maternal history of asthma and birth order (firstborn).
Conclusion Our findings provide new epidemiological evidence that high maternal MF levels in pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma in offspring.