Friday, February 17, 2017

Colo. study links oil and gas industry to childhood cancer; state official says it's not persuasive

Oil and natural-gas operations can be linked to childhood cancers, says a study by researchers at the University of Colorado published in the online journal PLOS One. The study, which looked at 743 cases of reported cancer among people up to 24 years old living in rural Colorado from 2001 to 2013, found that "people ages 5-24 who were diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia were more likely to live in areas with a high concentration of oil and gas activity," John Ingold reports for The Denver Post.

Researchers looked at cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and "weighed the number of those cases reported in . . . oil and gas areas against the numbers of other kinds of cancer reported in those areas," Ingold writes. "While the researchers found no link between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and oil and gas development, they did find a statistically significant correlation between oil and gas and acute lymphocytic leukemia in people ages 5-24." (CU graphic: Number of oil and gas wells in 16.1-kilometer radius from a child’s home versus the minimum distance of an oil and gas well from the child’s home for children with at least one oil and gas well within the 16.1-kilometer radius)
Lead author Lisa McKenzie, professor at the UC School of Public Health, has been criticized before by the oil and gas industry for her research, Ingold notes. Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the new study’s "conclusion isn’t convincingly reached. He cited limitations in the study’s design and data analysis." He told Ingold, “I don’t think the study supports the conclusion that they made."

Wolk said the study "didn’t adequately account for other potential causes of cancer and said it also didn’t look at neighborhood turnover or length of exposure to the pollutants," Ingold writes. "Previous CDPHE studies have found benzene levels in neighborhoods near oil and gas developments within the accepted ranges, he said." Wolk said the new research only found 16 cases "of acute lymphocytic leukemia in areas of high-density oil and gas development during the study period."

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