Leena H. Korpinen1,2 and Rauno J. Pääkkönen3
1Environmental Health, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland
2Faculty of Medicine, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
3Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Tampere, Finland
Summary of research published in Biolelectromagnetics, Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 431-437.
Before we started the study, some people told us that they experienced headaches or other symptoms when they used mobile phones. In addition, some researchers in other countries had published compilations of symptoms connected with the use of electrical devices reported by subjects in their studies. In our earlier studies we had also noticed problems with the usability of those devices.
The aim of our paper was to present the working-age population’s self-reported physical symptoms associated with using mobile phones and other electrical devices. We used the qualitative method to analyze the answers to an open-ended question in a questionnaire, which included questions about the possible influence of new technical equipment on health. Our aim was to also create subgroups of respondents for different self-reported symptoms which are associated with mobile phones and other electrical devices.
When we designed the questionnaire, we only wanted to ask about symptoms which are generally known in medicine. Therefore, we did not ask about electric hypersensitivity in the formulated questions. We thought that it was better to use "open questions" in which the subjects can explain in their own words what possible symptoms they got from the mobile phones.
The questionnaire was sent to 15,000 addresses. A total of 6121 (41%) responses were received and 1300 respondents (about 21%) answered the open-ended question ‘other observations concerning technology and health.’ We identified from the open-ended questions three categories: (1) subjects with different self-reported symptoms which they associated with using mobile phones (headache, earache, or warmth sensations), (2) subjects who had skin symptoms when they stayed in front of a computer screen, (3) subjects who mentioned physical symptoms associated with using mobile phones and other electrical devices. The total prevalence of self-reported physical symptoms associated with using mobile phones and other electrical devices was 0.7%. Although this percentage cannot be compared directly to the results of other studies, it is significantly less than what has been reported by other researchers.
This paper is important to bioelectromagnetics research because many subjects have doubts that their symptoms are related to electromagnetic fields from mobile phones or other devices. It is important to study how they describe the symptoms and the connection to the devices. Then it might be possible to find out the reasons for their symptoms and to do appropriate studies. Our paper can provide new ideas and knowledge for other research groups in the same area. For example, other groups can compare their results to our results, obtained using the qualitative method.