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Study Finds that Childhood Leukemia Rates Double Near Nuclear Power Stations

Study Finds that Childhood Leukemia Rates Double Near Nuclear Power Stations
In a report certain to cause fear and loathing in the global nuclear industry, an eminent French research institute published a study in the International Journal of Cancer, which notes increased rates of leukemia in children living close to French nuclear power plants (NPPs.)

How much greater?

The study by the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (French Institute of Health and Medical Research, or INSERM) found a leukemia rate twice as high among children under the age of 15 living within a 3.1-mile radius of France's 19 nuclear power plants.

INSERM has carried out similar research in conjunction with the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire (Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety, or IRSN) CEPA UMRS1018, team 6 for over two decades, but has never before found a higher incidence of leukemia.

The report builds upon the findings of a German study published in late 2007 studying German children under 5 years old, which found that children of that age in the vicinity of German NPPs had suffered an increase in the incidence of childhood leukemia.

IRSN epidemiology research laboratory head Dominique Laurier observed, "This is a result which has been checked thoroughly and which is statistically significant."

For those wishing to read the International Journal of Cancer study by C. Sermage-Faure, D. Laurier, S. Goujon-Bellec, M. Chartier, A. Guyot-Goubin, J. Rudant, D. Hemon and J. Clavel, “Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants – the Geocap study, 2002 – 2007,” the document is online in English at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.27425/pdf.

The study has ominous implications for the future of the nuclear industry in France, which opted for a full-blown nuclear energy program with minimal public debate after the first oil crisis in 1974 and whose 19 NPPs’ 58 reactors now provide more than 78 percent of the country’s electricity.

As for the study’s methodology, “The case-control study included all the 2,753 French childhood leukemia cases aged up to 15 years at the end of the year of diagnosis, diagnosed between 2002 and 2007, and residing in metropolitan France. The cases were obtained from the French National Registry of Childhood Hematological Malignancies (NRCH).”

Other unsettling findings from the study -

“The age distribution of the cases included in the study showed the expected peak of incidence, between 2 and 4 years old.”

“Overall, the results suggest a possible excess risk of AL (Acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in the close vicinity of French NPPs in 2002-2007.”

Nuclear power proponents will immediately seize upon the fact that the study fell short of establishing a direct causal link between the higher incidence of leukemia in children living near nuclear power plants. Laurier, one of the study’s authors remarked, "But we are working on numbers which are very small and results have to be analyzed with a lot of care. It's a rare disease and working on a bigger scale would allow more stable results."

But worse news for nuclear power proponents may be in store, as

An European study is in progress on the health effects of low doses of ionizing radiation by the Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative (MELODI), whose website is www.melodi-online.eu. The study group includes more than fifteen European organizations specializing in radiation protection or involved in research on the health effects of exposure to low doses of radiation.

But to return to the International Journal of Cancer study, which concludes, “Overall, the findings call for investigation for potential risk factors related to the vicinity of NPP, and collaborative analysis of all the evidence available from multi-site studies conducted in various countries.”

The above statement is certainly a reasonable request for further investigation. As the debate over nuclear power has become so vitriolic, perhaps the best thing for proponents on both sides of the issue is simply to read the International Journal of Cancer study and draw your own conclusions.

…and then decide if you want your children or grandchildren living within three miles of a “safe” NPP.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Guillermo Gefaell on January 19 2012 said:
    From the discussion:

    In the authors' previous multisite incidence studies29; 30 no association between proximity to
    NPPs and AL was observed. This was in line with most multisite studies and is also in
    line with the results of the authors' incidence analysis over the whole period, 1990-2007.
    Overall, the results suggest a possible excess risk of AL in the close vicinity of French NPPs
    in 2002-2007.

    The absence of any
    association with DBGZ, which is assumed to reflect the distribution of gaseous radiation
    discharged from NPPs, may indicate that the association observed with distance
  • Gayle Greene on January 21 2012 said:
    Very interesting!
    There is a German study, KIKI, that came up with similar findings. It drew some attention in Germany, but did not make it into U.S. press--as I discuss in "Science with a Skew: The Nuclear Industry After Chernobyl and Fukushima," Japan Focus and elsewhere.
  • C.M. Augustijn on February 20 2012 said:
    It has been always a big curiosity why we want to stay in doubt. With the help of a very simple experiment the discussion about the potential hazards living near a normal functioning nuclear reactor could be settled. It is believed nukes affect DNA in a bad way and cause disease and early death. Mankind is not the only species that consist of DNA. So what is more simple then take a population of fast reproducing species like mice, rats, small birds, fruit flies, and some food crops. Breed them in a controlled environment and under equal food, housing and light conditions 1 mile from the reactor, 2 miles from the reactor, 5 miles from the reactor, 10 miles from the reactor, 100 miles from the reactor and 1000 miles from the reactor. Count the number of birth defects, diseases, population growth rates, average age of death etc. etc.. Within 10 to 100 generations of fast reproducing species (1 to 5 years) there should be an answer if a nuclear central affects DNA in a bad way or not and at what distance, as radiation does not discriminate. If we want to know, we can know; simple as that. Also the same kind of experiment can be applied to any radiating source, like big radio transmitters for mobile communication etc.. Needles to say that this kind of experiment have to be conducted with the utmost care for the species involved – yet in a way, also they have a right to know if they are under threat, as they share the same environment with us ;)

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