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Are Microwaves and Other Magnetic Fields a Threat During Pregnancy?

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Step away from the microwave! A new study shows your grandparents may be right – exposure to electromagnetic fields may be hazardous to your health, especially while pregnant.

There hasn’t been much scientific evidence linking exposure to magnetic fields (such as power lines, vacuum cleaners, appliances and more) to health risks, possibly due to the fact that most studies on the topic require people to estimate exposure levels over a number of years.

In this new study, however, senior research scientist and study leader Dr. De-Kun Li created a “prospective study” to test the effect of electromagnetic fields on the risk for asthma in children. He had 801 pregnant women wore magnetic field monitors for 24 hours. The monitors measured their exposure to low-frequency fields (such as power lines, hair dryers, etc.), but not high-frequency ones, such as cellphones or cell phone towers.

The team then used medical records to follow up on the children these women delivered over 13 years. It was found that 130 children, or just under 21 percent, developed asthma, most before the age of 5. Next, they compared these findings to documented magnetic field exposure, and found that women in the highest levels of exposure had a 3.5 percent greater chance of their children developing asthma than those with the lowest levels.

That’s a lot of numbers, but does it mean that pregnant women must limit their exposure to magnetic fields? Unfortunately, that’s not yet known – while Dr. Li believes the findings do show a need to pay attention to exposure levels, he openly acknowledges that his results need to be tested in further studies by other groups.

So for now, pregnant women out there, you may want to step away from the microwave and cut back on the hair dryer just to be safe, but you can probably hold off on that magnetic field pregnancy panic room for now!

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