Children Living Near Heavily Used Roads at Higher Risk for Leukemia

Exposure to benzene due to high traffic volume during childhood may contribute to disease development.

Exposure to benzene due to high traffic volume during childhood may contribute to disease development.

Researchers at CRESS in France have recently performed studies to test whether or not children are at higher risk for leukemia when living in areas that are in closer proximity to heavily-used roads.

The study included all 2760 cases of leukemia diagnosed in children under 15 years of age in metropolitan France from 2002 through 2007. The incidence of new cases of myeloblastic leukemia was found to be 30% higher in children who belong to the group located within 150 miles of high traffic areas.

This association was not found in the more common, lymphoblastic type of leukemia.

“The frequency of myeloblastic type leukemias was 30% higher in children living within a 150 mile radius of heavily-used roads, and where the combined length of road section within this radius exceeded 260 miles,” said Jacqueline Clavel, Inserm research director.

In comparison, there was no association detected between acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the atmospheric concentration of nitrogen dioxide, distance, or combined length of heavily-used roads in the vicinity of dwellings.

The researchers focused on the Ile-de-France region of the country. They observed that the risk of childhood acute myeloblastic leukemia was double in Ile-de-France children whose residences were the most exposed to traffic.

Scientists hypothesize that exposure to benzene due to high traffic volume could be the cause of this phenomenon. Further testing is needed in order to confirm this finding.