CU study links childhood leukemia in Colorado to oil and gas development

AURORA, Colo. – Does living near areas of high-density oil and gas development increase the risk of childhood leukemia? A University of Colorado study released Wednesday appears to point to that conclusion.

The study by the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz shows a link between young Coloradans diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and their proximity to high-density gas development.

Researchers led by Dr. Lisa McKenzie looked at data from the Colorado Central Cancer Registry and compared that information from the Colorado Oil and Gas Information System. The study included 743 young Coloradans aged 0-24 years living in rural Colorado and diagnosed with cancer between 2001 and 2013. 

According to current research, more than 378,000 Coloradans live within one mile of oil and gas development. 

Although the study appears to show an association, researchers admit more research is needed to better understand the results. The researchers observed no association between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and high-density oil and gas development.

Colorado's oil and gas industry has taken issue with the study and paints past research by Dr. McKenzie as "questionable." They released the following statement:

"This is a very serious allegation. If you recall, Lisa McKenzie’s last major study in 2014 was disavowed by state health officials and in fact the state’s top health official went so far as to say the public could be “misled” by it. University researchers shouldn’t be in the game of scaring people just to secure additional funding. Still, public health is obviously of great concern to our industry and we will review her data immediately. We also look forward to the state’s review of the study.” 

According to the State of Colorado, the study had limitations, and therefore may not be conclusive. The state released the following statement: 

We support studies that evaluate the potential impact of environmental contaminants on public health, and certainly, Benzene exposure has been proven to increase risk of certain types of cancers, including leukemia. However, this study’s conclusions are misleading in that the study questions a possible association between oil and gas operations and childhood leukemia; it does not prove or establish such a connection. 

The State of Colorado said it welcomes citizens with questions or concerns about oil and gas health to reach out to state programs at 303-389-1687 or the following site

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