Exposure soon after birth, or even before, to combustion gases and particularly engine exhaust, is strongly linked to the development of childhood cancers like leukemia, according to a report from the UK.
"These results confirm the relative proximities of child cancer births to substance-specific hotspots from oil-based emissions, and to industrial sites known to discharge such materials," Dr. E. G. Knox, from the University of Birmingham, reports in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
In the study, Dr. Knox linked emission hotspots for specific chemicals, from maps available on the Internet maps, to the birth addresses of children who later died from leukemia or other cancers before their 16th birthday.
An excess risk of childhood cancer was noted in hotspots for a variety of chemicals, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and 1,3-butadiene. Although many of the associations seemed to be artificial, an independent link with 1,3-butadiene and carbon monoxide remained., reports Reuters.
According to Bloomberg, report author Professor George Knox said the exposure of a child in the womb and soon after birth to the pollutants were likely to be the critical period. And he added more controls should be introduced.
"The dominant approach to control has been to specify maximum ambient air concentrations in work situations, but this is clearly not sufficient in the context of fetus/child exposure. "Control and monitoring measures must be directed towards the sources."
But Ruth Yates, statistical information manager at Cancer Research UK, warned the research should be put into context. "The results of this study should be interpreted with considerable caution and people should not be alarmed by its claims.