Scientists reject link between nuclear plants and leukaemia

An exhaustive investigation into the incidence of childhood cancer in Britain over a period of 35 years has failed to find any increased risk of leukaemia among children living near nuclear power stations.

The independent committee of scientists that carried out the study investigated 13 nuclear power plants across Britain and failed to find one that has a statistically significant "cluster" of childhood cancers among families living near by.

The findings will almost certainly be used by the Government to support its case for building a new set of nuclear power stations to meet UK energy demands over the coming decades, which many environmentalists have opposed on health grounds as well as risks to the environment.

Scientists appointed by the Government to review the evidence of a link between radioactive emissions from nuclear power stations and childhood leukaemia said the risk is "extremely small, if not zero" and that in future it would be more profitable to investigate other potential causes of the cancer, such as viral infections, rather than radiation.

Professor Alex Elliott, chairman of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation and the Environment (Comare), and a distinguished medical physicist at Glasgow University, said that the estimated extra radiation dose from a nearby nuclear power plant amounts to just 0.0065 per cent of the dose typically received from natural and medical causes combined.

"While we need to keep a watching brief on radiation as a possible cause of leukaemia," Professor Elliott said, "we should be looking at other places for the cause of childhood cancers, such as viruses and other infections introduced into relatively isolated communities by outsiders – a theory known as population mixing."

Childhood leukaemia is a rare disease, affecting about 500 children each year in the UK. The scientists found just 20 cases between 1969 and 2004 among children living within 5km of a nuclear power plant, and 430 cases of the disease in children living within 25km.

None of them fell into recognised "clusters" – defined as a significantly higher number of cases in a designated area compared with the national average. There was no increased risk of childhood leukaemia associated with living near a nuclear power plant.

"Comare's primary analysis of the latest British data has revealed no significant evidence of an association between risk of childhood leukaemia in under-fives and living in proximity to a nuclear power plant," Professor Elliott said.

But previous investigations by Comare have established that there are two childhood cancer clusters near to the nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield in Cumbria and Dounreay in northern Scotland. The latest Comare report did not investigate these clusters but previous reports said radiation emissions from the two plants are too small to account for the excess cancers.

A German study has established a higher risk of childhood cancer around nuclear power plants, specifically a cluster around the Krummel plant near Hamburg. But Professor Elliott said that the numbers involved are so small that there might be another explanation or interpretation.

"It is extremely difficult to do these epidemiological studies and one single piece of data should not be taken out of context," he said.

To test their statistics, Comare examined childhood cancers around sites where nuclear power stations were planned, but never built. They found a statistical cluster around one site with no nearby nuclear reactor.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

    £100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

    Senior Digital Marketing Executive

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

    Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

    Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz