Proximity to the Irish Sea and Leukemia Incidence in Children at ages 0-4 in Wales from 1974-1989

Proximity to the Irish Sea and Leukemia Incidence in Children

at ages 0-4 in Wales from 1974-1989

First Report of the Green Audit Irish Sea Research Group August 1st 1998

Chris Busby, PhD
Bruce Kocjan, BSc
Evelyn Mannion
Molly Scott Cato MA, MSc

Green Audit Aberystwyth, Wales SY23 1PU
Occasional Papers 98/4; August 1998

1. The Green Audit Irish Sea Study

This study began in December 1997 as part of the research effort associated with the legal case, Short and Others vs BNFL. It was a contention of the litigants that radioactive pollution of the Irish Sea by the BNFL nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield in West Cumbria was a danger to the health of persons living near the east coast of Ireland.

There has been anecdotal evidence of increases in cancer, leukemia and other genetic-based illness near the Irish and Welsh coasts. Because the Irish have had no national cancer registry over the period of operation of Sellafield, it was of interest to look for any sea proximity effect that might support the plaintiffs’ claims.

Cancer registry data covering small areas is seldom made available to independent researchers. Between 1992 and 1996, the publication of three books on the effects of low-level radiation from man-made fission-product pollution and cancer in Wales (Busby 1992, 1994, 1995) advanced the thesis that a comparison of cancer incidence across two countries, Wales and England, that were differentially polluted by radioisotopes from the early 1960s global weapons-testing fallout suggested that it was internal exposure to such man-made radiation that was the main cause of the sudden increases in cancer in Wales relative to England, twenty years after the exposure. The resulting controversy put pressure on the Wales Cancer Registry to allow Green Audit access small area data which they had hitherto refused to release. Immediately following this the registry was closed down by the Welsh Office and responsibility for cancer intelligence was handed to a new Wales Cancer Intelligence Unit.

The data obtained by Green Audit was for 230 areas of residence in Wales, based on pre-1974 local authority boundary administrative areas. The period covered was 1974 to 1989 and incidence data was by sex, site and five-year age-group. This level of resolution permits the examination of the health effects in Wales of proximity to the Irish Sea. This part of the Irish Sea Study examines the appropriate age- standardised incidence of twelve different types of cancer as a function of distance from the Irish Sea.

We report here preliminary results for childhood leukemia age 0-4.

See above link for full paper