CRVAW Faculty Journal Articles


BACKGROUND: Cancer is the second leading cause of death among U.S. children with few known risk factors. There is increasing interest in the role of air pollutants, including benzene and 1,3-butadiene, in the etiology of childhood cancers.

OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to assess whether census tracts with the highest benzene or 1,3-butadiene ambient air levels have increased childhood lymphohematopoietic cancer incidence.

METHODS: Our ecologic analysis included 977 cases of childhood lymphohematopoietic cancer diagnosed from 1995–2004. We obtained the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 1999 modeled estimates of benzene and 1,3-butadiene for 886 census tracts surrounding Houston, Texas. We ran Poisson regression models by pollutant to explore the associations between pollutant levels and census-tract cancer rates. We adjusted models for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and community-level socioeconomic status (cSES).

RESULTS: Census tracts with the highest benzene levels had elevated rates of all leukemia [rate ratio (RR) = 1.37; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.05, 1.78]. This association was higher for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (RR = 2.02; 95% CI, 1.03–3.96) than for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) (RR = 1.24; 95% CI, 0.92–1.66). Among census tracts with the highest 1,3-butadiene levels, we observed RRs of 1.40 (95% CI, 1.07–1.81), 1.68 (95% CI, 0.84–3.35), and 1.32 (95% CI, 0.98–1.77) for all leukemia, AML, and ALL, respectively. We detected no associations between benzene or 1,3-butadiene levels and lymphoma incidence. Results that examined joint exposure to benzene and 1,3-butadiene were similar to those that examined each pollutant separately.

CONCLUSIONS: Our ecologic analysis suggests an association between childhood leukemia and hazardous air pollution; further research using more sophisticated methodology is warranted.

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Published in Environmental Health Perspectives, v. 116, no. 11, p. 1576-1580.

Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Funding Information

This research was funded in part with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services through grant 1 R03 CA128106-01A1.

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