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Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK


Boats blamed for leukaemia

Boat building may be linked to leukaemia

The boat industry may be responsible for an increase in leukaemia cases, scientists have claimed.

The BBC's Gill Higgins reports
Research has found that coastal areas in Britain where there is a lot of boating activity have a higher number of leukaemia cases than other regions of the country.

The results of the study, carried out by the Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University, are similar to those of earlier studies which showed that people who live near river estuaries were more prone to develop leukaemia.

But unlike previous research which attributed the cancers to heavy metals and radioactive materials found in estuary silt, lead researcher Professor Nicholas Day and his team believe the cause is exposure to products connected with the boating industry.

They argue that there is no evidence that the population would suffer any appreciable exposure to pollution found in estuary silt.

But they say: "The estuaries involved, however, are noteworthy for the extent of maritime activities, both recreational and occupational with boat building and repair being important forms of employment.

"Both recreational and occupational activity would involve potential exposure to resins, solvents, paints and petroleum products, which have been shown to be risk factors for acute leukaemia."

Cancer data

The researchers, whose findings are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, used data from the East Anglian Cancer Registry which has collected all new cases of cancer in the region since 1971.

For the period 1981-1994, there were 826 cases of acute leukaemia in the region.

They compared the numbers of actual cases with those that would have been statistically expected to occur.

Eight postcode districts were identified as having a small but significant excess of leukaemia cases.

These areas were all adjacent to the major estuaries around the Norfolk and Suffolk coast - the Stour, Orwell, Deben and the Ore.

The clustering was seen equally in men and women, before and after the age of 65.

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