The Ecologist

Smoke rises from a nuclear facility's four chimneys

A French study has found a doubling of the incidence of leukaemia in children under 5 living near nuclear power plants

More articles about
Related Articles

Nuclear special Links between childhood leukaemia and nuclear power plant radiation

Matilda Lee

15th February, 2012

The UK government's scientific advisory group found no link between childhood leukaemia and proximity to nuclear power plants, but German and French research has found an alarming doubling of risk

In the latest development in the debate over to what extent there is a link between childhood leukaemia and radiation from nuclear power plants, a French study has found a doubling in the incidence of the disease among children under 5 living within 5-kilometre radius of a nuclear plant.

The study, conducted by the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire (INSERM) and reported in the International Journal on Cancer in January 2012, looked at child leukaemia cases nationwide diagnosed between 2002 and 2007, with addresses coded around 19 nuclear power plants. It demonstrated a stastically signficant doubling of the incidence of leukaemia childhood near nuclear power plants.

The French study confirms an earlier German study, known as the KiKK, which found a doubling of the incidence of child leukaemia near nuclear power plants, and an increased risk of 60 per cent for all childhood cancers. The KiKK findings were confirmed by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

However, last year the UK government's scientific advisory Committee on the Medical Effects of Radiation on the Environment (COMARE), in a report ‘Further consideration of the incidence of childhood leukaemia around nuclear power plants in Great Britain' concluded that it, ‘has found no reason to change its previous advice that there is no evidence to support the view that there is an increased risk of childhood leukaemia and other cancers in the vicinity of NPPs [nuclear power plants] due to radiation effects.'

The report analysed geographical data on the incidence of leukaemia in children under 5 living in the vicinity of 13 nuclear power plants. It used cancer registration data for Great Britain from 1969 to 2004.

Dr Paul Dorfman, of the University of Warwick who earlier commented in the Ecologist about the link between childhood leukaemia and nuclear power plants says, ‘what the French study does is confirm the earlier KiKK findings, a very statistically sound study by the German Childhood Cancer Registry'.

COMARE accepted the findings of the KiKK study, but rather than radiation being a causative factor, it pointed to growing evidence of the role of a viral infection, the so-called population mixing theory. ‘There is some potential for this to happen, but no virus has actually been identified, it's just a suggestion, a concept. Because a virus hasn't been identified, COMARE can't show causation. For COMARE to use this as a blanket explanation for an increase in leukaemia rates is potentially misleading. It is not an either/or. In other words, radiation may very well play a part in these ill health excess,' says Dr Dorfman.

Dr Dorfman, the former Secretary to the government's Committee examining radiation risks from internal emitters (CERRIE), says ‘It does seem clear that there is something going on around nuclear plants in Germany, in the UK around Sellafield and now in France. No matter what COMARE say, the scientific evidence for a clear association, if not a causal link, between operating nuclear plants and ill health in communities nearby seems increasingly compelling.'

When asked for comment, a member of COMARE's Secretariat, Dr Kerry Broom, said that it is aware of the French INSERM study and will be discussing it at the next COMARE meeting in March.


Add to StumbleUpon
Nuclear special Battlelines drawn as Cumbrian residents square up over nuclear waste site
A decision looms on whether - and where - to build the UK's first deep disposal for nuclear waste. Two borough councils in Cumbria have 'volunteered' - but can the communities be convinced? Matilda Lee reports
Nuclear special Fukushima: the social impact of a nuclear disaster
The earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Japan last year compounded pre-existing issues like falling birth rates, fragmented families and shrinking communities. What does the future hold?
Nuclear special Campaigners say no to nuclear new build at Hinkley Point
Campaign group South-West Against Nuclear want to stop the government's plans for a 'nuclear renaissance' beginning in Hinkley Point in Somerset. Nuclear, activists say, is plagued by problems from beginning to end
Bjørn Lomborg: 'Five inches...? I can't even remember that figure'
Despite no scientific training Bjørn Lomborg has had a strong influence on the climate change debate, positioning himself against climate deniers and campaigners who say that climate change is a global emergency
Film exposes the tragedy of pirate fishing in Sierra Leone
A new Al Jazeera documentary follows reporter Juliana Ruhfud and producer Orlando von Einsiedel as they investigate Sierra Leone's multi-million dollar illegal fishing trade


Previous Articles...

Work for The Ecologist as a Contributing Editor


Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.

More information here...




Help us keep the Ecologist platform going

Since 2012, the Ecologist has been owned and published by a small UK-based charity called the Resurgence Trust. We work hard to support the kind of independent journalism and comment that we know Ecologist readers enjoy but we need your help to keep going. We do all this on a very small budget with a very small editorial team and so joining the Trust or making a donation will show us you value our work and support the platform which is currently offered as a free service.

Join The Resurgence TrustDonate to support the Resurgence Trust