Children and young adults living close to high-density oil and gas development in Colorado are 4.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with a devastating form of childhood leukemia, according to a paper published last week in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study by the Colorado School of Public Health looked at the incidence of acute lymphocytic leukemia in rural areas and towns in 57 counties across the state.
“Over 378,000 Coloradans and millions of Americans currently live within a mile of at least one oil and gas well, and petroleum development continues to expand into residential areas,” said assistant research professor and lead investigator Dr. Lisa McKenzie. “The findings from our registry-based case control study indicate that young Coloradans diagnosed with one type of childhood leukemia are more likely to live in the densest areas of oil and gas sites.”
McKenzie called for further research to “address our study’s limitations [and] understand and explain these results.”
(Editor’s Note: But if you’ve ever experienced leukemia, even at one or two steps removed, you know that this is the kind of moment the precautionary principle was built for.)
So far, with hundreds of oil and gas rigs located within a mile of residential areas, “the study indicates that people living in areas of oil and gas development may be at an increased risk for health effects, including cancers, resultant from such industrial exposures,” Medical Xpress reports.
“The report concludes that future research should incorporate information on oil and gas development activities and production levels, as well as levels of specific pollutants of interest like benzene near homes, schools, and day care centers. It recommends such research consider specific ages and residential histories, compare cases to controls without cancer, and address other potential confounders and environmental stressors.”