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Science in Brief

Living Near Busy Streets Tied to Cancer Risk in Children

March 02, 2000

Children living near heavily traveled streets or highways have as much as six times the normal risk of contracting cancer or leukemia, according to a new study in the February issue of the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Assn., released Wednesday. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder speculated that the link resulted from carcinogens, including benzene, in auto exhaust, but cautioned that they had not shown a cause-and-effect relationship. Occupational exposure to benzene is known to cause leukemia. Similar results were reported in a 1989 study of Denver streets, but the results were highly criticized because they did not take nearby thoroughfares into account.

For reasons that are not yet clear, the team also found that children living near both heavily traveled streets and high-tension power lines had the greatest risk of all. Some people think the electromagnetic fields around power lines may cause cancer, but studies on the subject have been inconclusive.

--Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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