Sellafield children have heightened cancer risk

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The Independent Online

The children of men exposed to radiation at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria have twice the normal risk of blood and lymph cancers, a report says.

The children of men exposed to radiation at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria have twice the normal risk of blood and lymph cancers, a report says.

The findings come from a study supported by the nuclear industry and appear to back claims made about such a link 12 years ago. In 1990 the late Martin Gardner, an epidemiologist from the University of Southampton, produced evidence of a link between doses of radiation received by men employed at Sellafield and the incidence of leukaemia among their children. But the hypothesis has been criticised, with many experts arguing that large numbers of people moving in and out of the area in Cumbria might have spread infections that raise the risk of cancer.

Now the most comprehensive study to date into the possibility has reopened the debate. Heather Dickson and Louise Parker from the University of Newcastle compared the fates of 9,859 children fathered by men exposed to radiation at Sellafield with those of 256,851 children born to other fathers in Cumbria between 1950 and 1991.

They found that the incidence of leukaemia and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma – which are cancerous diseases of the blood and lymphatic systems – in Cumbria was twice as high among Sellafield children.

The incidence was 15 times as great in Seascale, a small village next to the power plant, New Scientist magazine said. Crucially, the risk to children rose in line with the radiation dose received by their fathers.

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