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Oil and Gas Development Linked To Childhood Leukemia

Posted on March 25, 2017 by Jeanne Roberts There have been 0 comments

As if DAPL (the Dakota Access Pipeline) wasn’t bad enough, the news that oil and gas exploration and recovery may be the cause of childhood leukemia is likely to be the final nail in the petroleum industry’s coffin.

Things have been hard on the industry. We all feel sorry for the workers, whose families are now relying on charity while they, the workers, retrain for work in other fields.

We don’t feel so sorry for the major players in the industry, the mega-billion-dollar companies like Exxon, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell – Big Oil players who are pulling back into their corporate shells like turtles facing a jaguar now that oil is on the downturn. One, at least, has known for years about the industry’s effect on climate change.

Now, according to researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health (CU Anschutz), the health effects are equally as devastating. Their study – focused on 743 children and young adults (ages newborn to 24, and all with acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL) – was highly revealing. It seems that young people who live in areas where gas and oil wells are prevalent are more than four times as likely to develop ALL as their counterparts who do not.

The study’s participants were a group of 743 individuals who lived in small towns (less than 50,000) around Colorado. All were diagnosed with cancer between 2001 and 2013. The methods used to extrapolate figures are complicated, but researchers drew much of their dataset from records obtained from the Colorado Central Cancer Registry and the Colorado Oil and Gas Information System.

The locations of each of the 743 were linked to oil and gas wells active both in the year of the cancer diagnosis, and in the decade preceding the diagnosis, so the correlation and extrapolation is clear. The study was weighted for distance (from wells with a 16.1-kilometer (10-mile) radius of location), and calculated in such a way that wells closer to home were accorded more importance. Age, gender, race, geographic elevation, and income were also part of the evaluation.

The study is highly controversial. Lead researcher Lisa McKensie (the Colorado School of Public Health on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus) has been challenged by no less a personage than Larry Wolk, Colorado’s chief medical officer, who argues that studies to date show no such correlation between oil and gas work and ALL.

“…especially when considering the current setbacks (of a minimum 500-foot buffer between oil and gas wells and homes),” Wolk noted in an e-mail.

Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council (affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute) was equally dismissive, calling the study an attempt to undermine energy development and jobs in Colorado and “…a deliberate misuse of data by someone with a political agenda; we need to stick with the facts”. Colorado ranks ninth out of 10 states in oil and gas exploration and extraction (Texas is #1).

One of the major components of the oil and gas industry process is benzene, a recognized cancer risk. Kinsey’s work is not the only paper to demonstrate a link. A 2007 study of adult male workers at a Texas petroleum and chemical refinery confirmed elevated levels of ALL cell types (ALL occurs most commonly among children, especially those aged 0 to 5 years). A 2011 study from Australia confirmed a link between benzene and ALL, and at least five other publications demonstrate the same link.

Will McKensie have to “go after” the oil and gas industry the way Inside Climate News went after Exxon to expose their climate change denial?

Perhaps. In the meantime, you can do your part to see that at least some of the estimated 6,000 petroleum-sourced items we humans use in our daily lives are made in “greener” ways.

Whether you choose to solve the problem via reusable cloth shopping bags, compostable cutlery, bagasse plates, bamboo bowls, or stainless mugs and cups, you can help reduce the likelihood that someone else’s child will develop childhood cancer.


This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety and was tagged with acute lymphocytic leukemia, ALL, benzene, chemical, COMPOSTABLE, gas, green living, HEALTH SENSITIVE, Oil, oil drilling, petroleum, refinery

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