Letter Ian Fairlie: Thomas Jones digs up Carol Barton’s research article from 2001, in which she relayed her findings that, between 1972 and 1996, the risk of child leukaemia within ten kilometres of Aldermaston and Burghfield was double the rate for the UK as a whole (LRB, 5 April). Barton was then a consultant haematologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. ‘Until the cause of cancer is fully understood, and what the part of radiation in the process could be,’ she wrote, ‘no firm measures can be taken to redress the balance.’ Research has moved on since then. More than sixty epidemiological studies worldwide have examined the incidence of cancer in children near nuclear power plants (NPPs): most indicate increases in leukaemia. These include the landmark 2008 KiKK study commissioned by the German government, which found relative risks of 1.6 in total cancers and 2.2 in leukaemias among infants living within five kilometres of all German NPPs. A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain these findings. One is that the increased cancers arise from the exposure of pregnant women near NPPs to radiation. However, any theory has to account for the greater than a thousand-fold discrepancy between official estimates of radiation doses from nuclear emissions and the observed increases in cancer risk. It may be that radiation exposures from spikes in NPP radionuclide emissions are significantly larger than the averages recorded in official estimates. In addition, the risks to embryos and foetuses from radiation exposure are much greater than to adults, and the blood-forming tissues in embryos and foetuses are even more radiosensitive.
London Review of Books 26th April 2018 read more »
See London Review of Books 5th April 2018 read more »