The researchers of this article proposed to study the effects of extremely low frequency electromagnetic forces (ELF-EMFs) in electronic equipment repairers, especially at 50-60 Hz frequency. Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels were tested as an indicator of oxidative stress. Melatonin levels were tested to determine the degree of sleep sufficiency in these workers. Melatonin is a hormone produced during sleep, an antioxidant and a scavenger of ROS. Deficiencies of melatonin are known to lead to sleep and mood disorders, while sufficient melatonin has a sleep-inducing effect.
Fifty electronics equipment repairers at high risk for EMF exposure were tested and compared to a similar group of workers with low risk. The workers repair equipment such as computer hardware, radios, television sets, tape recorders, video cassette recorders and computer monitors. The control workers used computers for less than 1 hour per day and did not live close to high voltage power lines. Questionnaires were completed about the worker’s medical, occupational and sleep histories. Blood levels of melatonin and MDA were performed.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced by the mitochondria of our cells. When these ROS are overproduced by cells under stress, the normal availability of antioxidants may be insufficient, tissue damage may result, and MDA is produced. MDA is tested in the blood as an indicator of oxidative stress on our cells.
The findings of the study are that melatonin blood levels are lower in the high risk workers complaining of sleep insufficiency compared to workers without sleep insufficiency. MDA levels were higher in the high risk workers compared to the controls. Sleep insufficiency was over twice as high on the questionnaires of the high risk workers as compared to the controls, but was not statistically significant. Low melatonin levels and the high MDA levels could explain the sleep insufficiency.
Health education about the risks of EMF, reducing the amount of time workers are exposed to EMF and encouraging the use of antioxidant vitamins are useful in reducing oxidation and improving sleep patterns.
CONCLUSION: The exposure of humans to ELF-EMF may induce oxidative stress and interfere with their sleep patterns. Low levels of melatonin and high levels of MDA are found with this exposure. Education, reduced work hours at high risk and antioxidant supplements are suggested for these workers.
NOTE: Antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.
Melatonin is a part of treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease.