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Leukemia rates two to three times higher in children born near fracking


 

Children born near fracking and other “unconventional” drilling sites are at two to three times greater risk of developing childhood leukemia, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, compared proximity of homes to unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) sites and risk of the most common form of childhood leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Researchers looked at 405 children aged 2-7 diagnosed with ALL in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2017. These children were compared to a control group of 2,080 without the disease matched on the year of birth.

“Unconventional oil and gas development can both use and release chemicals that have been linked to cancer,” study coauthor Nicole Deziel, PhD, of the Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Conn., said in a statement . She noted that the possibility that children living in close proximity to such sites are “exposed to these chemical carcinogens is a major public health concern.”

About 17 million Americans live within a half-mile of active oil and gas production, according to the Oil & Gas Threat Map, Common Dreams reports. That number includes 4 million children.

The Yale study also found that drinking water could be an important pathway of exposure to oil- and gas-related chemicals used in the UOGD methods of extraction.

Researchers used a new metric that measures exposure to contaminated drinking water and distance to a well. They were able to identify UOGD-affected wells that fell within watersheds where children and their families likely obtained their water.

“Previous health studies have found links between proximity to oil and gas drilling and various children’s health outcomes,” said Dr. Deziel. “This study is among the few to focus on drinking water specifically and the first to apply a novel metric designed to capture potential exposure through this pathway.”

A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.

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