Proximity To Landfill Sites Linked To Increased Risk Of Congenital Chromosomal Abnormalities (p 320)

New data from a 1998 study to assess the potential risks of chromosomal abnormalities of residents living near landfill sites is detailed in a research letter in this week’s issue of THE LANCET. The findings suggest that the increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities is of a similar magnitude to the increased risk of non-chromosomal abnormalities previously reported.

Previous findings of the EUROHAZCON study (Lancet 1998; 352: 423–27) showed a 33% increase in the risk of non-chromosomal anomalies (eg. neural-tube defects; cleft palate; cardiovascular, gastro-intestinal, and central-nervous-system disorders) for residents living near hazardous waste landfill sites. Martine Vrijheid from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and colleagues investigated the association between proximity to landfill sites and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities (eg. Down’s syndrome). 245 cases of chromosomal anomaly and 2412 healthy individuals (the control group) who lived near 23 landfill sites in Europe were studied; after adjustment for the confounding factors of maternal age and socioeconomic status, the investigators report a 40% higher risk of chromosomal anomalies in people who lived close to sites (0–3 km) than in those who lived further away (3–7 km).

Martine Vrijheid comments: “It remains unclear whether increased risks detected by the study result from living near a hazardous waste landfill site or from other factors. Most importantly, it is not known how much, if any, exposure mothers had to chemicals from the landfills. Further research into exposure of residents to landfill sites is needed to interpret the findings.” (quote by e-mail; does not appear in published paper).

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