Electromagnetic field exposure and health among RF plastic sealer operators.
Bioelectromagnetics. 2004 Jan ;25(1):5-15. PMID: 14696048
Operators of RF plastic sealers (RF operators) are an occupational category highly exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. The aim of the present study was to make an appropriate exposure assessment of RF welding and examine the health status of the operators. In total, 35 RF operators and 37 controls were included. The leakage fields (electric and magnetic field strength) were measured, as well as induced and contact current. Information about welding time and productivity was used to calculate time integrated exposure. A neurophysiological examination and 24 h ECG were also carried out. The participants also had to answer a questionnaire about subjective symptoms. The measurements showed that RF operators were exposed to rather intense electric and magnetic fields. The mean values of the calculated 6 min, spatially averaged E and H field strengths, in line with ICNIRP reference levels, are 107 V/m and 0.24 A/m, respectively. The maximum measured field strengths were 2 kV/m and 1.5 A/m, respectively. The induced current in ankles and wrists varied, depending on the work situation, with a mean value of 101 mA and a maximum measured value of 1 A. In total, 11 out of 46 measured RF plastic sealers exceeded the ICNIRP reference levels. RF operators, especially the ready made clothing workers had a slightly disturbed two-point discrimination ability compared to a control group. A nonsignificant difference between RF operators and controls was found in the prevalence of subjective symptoms, but the time integrated exposure parameters seem to be of importance to the prevalence of some subjective symptoms: fatigue, headaches, and warmth sensations in the hands. Further, RF operators had a significantly lower heart rate (24 h registration) and more episodes of bradycardia compared to controls.