New study reveals children born close to fracking more likely to develop childhood leukemia

Not only are children at a greater risk of developing ALL from toxic air pollution, but the study said that fracking also contaminates drinking water, which causes more exposure to cancer-linked chemicals.

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Image Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski

New research published Wednesday found fossil fuel pollution is linked to childhood leukemia. A peer-reviewed study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children who live in close proximity to unconventional oil and gas development have a higher chance of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of childhood leukemia.

“Unconventional oil and gas development can both use and release chemicals that have been linked to cancer,” Nicole Deziel, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and co-author of the study, said.

The study “compared 405 children ages 2 to 7 who were diagnosed with ALL in Pennsylvania between 2009 and 2017 to a control group of 2,080 children without leukemia matched on birth year,” Common Dreams reported. The connection between in utero exposure and unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) to childhood leukemia diagnoses were broken down in two windows of research. The first was referred to as the “primary window,” which was three months pre-conception to one year prior to diagnosis, and the second was the “perinatal window,” which was pre-conception to birth.

Research determined that children living within 1.24 miles of at least one fracking well at birth during the primary window were at a 1.98 time higher risk of developing ALL from children who didn’t live near UOGD, while children in the perinatal window were 2.8 times more likely to develop ALL compared to children who were unexposed.

“…hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade…fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food & Water Watch, said.

While setback distances of UOGD are being debated throughout the country, researchers “observed elevated risks of childhood leukemia from fracking activity within a 2,000 meter (6,562 feet) radius,” Common Dreams reported. The current setback distance in Pennsylvania, where the study took place, is 499 feet, up from 200 feet in 2012.

“Existing setback distances, which may be as little as 150 feet, are insufficiently protective of children’s health,” Cassandra Clark, a postdoctoral associate at the Yale Cancer Center and lead author of the study, said. “We hope that studies like ours are taken into account in the ongoing policy discussion around UOG setback distances.”

Not only are children at risk of developing ALL from toxic air pollution, but the study said that fracking also contaminates drinking water, which causes more exposure to cancer-linked chemicals, putting them at a greater risk.

“Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly,” Hauter said. “It should be banned entirely.”

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