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Worrying about base stations could cause sleep loss, Spanish study finds


Worry sleep black and white
              Image: Flickr/pedrosimoes7

Spaniards worried about living near a mobile phone base station could be affected by sleep problems according to a reanalysis of a 2003 study into the impacts of two 30 metre high phone towers in as small rural Spanish city.
 
“Users of cellular phones were more prone to symptoms of loss of appetite and vertigo, while those who expressed worry about the BSs [base stations] were associated with sleep problems,” found researchers from the University of Valencia.
 
The study, published online in the BMJ Open journal in December 2013, reanalysed the data from a 2003 study of the residents living near two 30 metre high towers which had been installed in 1997 and 1999 in La Nora a small rural city near the region’s capital of Murcia in south-eastern Spain.
 
The researchers sent local residents questionnaires including a symptoms checklist – which included fatigue, irritability, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep disorders, depressive tendency, dizziness, concentration difficulties, memory loss, skin lesions, visual and hearing deficiencies, walking difficulties and cardiovascular problems – and asked the residents to say if they felt any of the symptoms never, sometimes, often and very often.
 
In the updated study they also measured the levels of radio waves in some of the participants’ houses and rang residents and asked if they were concerned about the nearby towers.
 
The researchers found residents who used a mobile phone were more likely to report a loss of appetite and balance and residents who were concerned about the base stations – no matter how close they their house was to the towers – complained about sleep problems.
 
However, the researchers admit that bias cannot be ruled out as a reason for the results.
 
“The sample was randomly selected but a participation bias cannot be ruled out since most of our participants expressed fear regarding BSs and this could contribute to their participation in the study,” the researchers said.
 
“It is also possible to speculate that the percentage of participants who refused to participate did so for the opposite reasons (indifference about BSs)”.
 
The researchers concluded that despite the possibility of bias, that concerns about technology could have caused the sleep problems.
 
“Nevertheless, we confirm that apprehension about modern technology could predict some symptoms, especially those related with sleep problems,” they concluded.
 
In 2010 a systematic review conducted for the World Health Organization specifically looked at research on people exposed to base station emissions in everyday environments and found:
 
“In conclusion, our review does not indicate an association between any health outcome and radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure from MPBSs [mobile phone base stations] at levels typically encountered in people’s everyday environment.” 

 

Published 29/05/2014

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