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Thursday, 27 May, 1999, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Study lifts nuclear industry cancer fears
Sellafield
People living around Sellafield are suspicious about health risks
Children of workers at nuclear plants are no more likely to develop cancers, a study has concluded.

Researchers examined the medical histories of 46,107 children, one of whose parents was working at either the Sellafield nuclear plant, or those at Aldermaston in Berkshire, or Dounreay in Scotland.

Overall, they found the proportion of these children who developed leukaemia, or Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, was the same as in society at large.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say they discovered some evidence that children whose parent had been exposed to relatively high doses of radiation before their conception had a higher risk of developing cancer.

However, this involved just three cases out of 111, and was dismissed as "statistically insignificant" by the report's author, Dr Eve Roman, from the Leukaemia Research Fund.

'Reassuring findings'

She said: "These are very reassuring findings. No unusual cancer patterns were evident."

But Janine Alliss-Smith, from pressure group Cumbria Opposed to a Radiactive Environment (CORE), said that the new research changed nothing, and if anything, supported the orginal study which linked cancer to radioactivity.

She said: "We have always been talking about very small numbers of cases and British Nuclear Fuels should now order more research on the issue."

Cluster of cases near plant

The link between radiation and childhood cancer was first suggested after a "cluster" of leukaemia cases in the village of Seascale, which is only a few miles from the Sellafield plant, which reprocesses spent nuclear fuel.

A report by Professor Martin Gardner hypothesised that as many of the families involved were connected with the plant, radiation exposure before conception was the cause.

British Nuclear Fuels have always staunchly denied the link, and a spokesman said that the comprehensive new research simply confirmed the findings of more than one piece of research published since Prof Gardner's work.

He said: "People were saying: 'The leukaemia cluster must have something to do with Sellafield, mustn't it?'."

"But now three studies since then have said there is no support for Gardner's theories."

He added that the majority of workers living in Seascale were white-collar office staff who were unlikely to have been exposed to doses of radiation.

Similar allegations about cancer "clusters" had been made about the Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston and the atomic reactor at Dounreay in Northern Scotland.

See also:

20 Apr 99 | Health
Boats blamed for leukaemia
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