A new study reported by Newsday indicates a strong association between leukemia among young girls and low levels of air and drinking-water pollution in New Jersey.  Drinking water was supplied by a local water company that is supposed to ensure the safety and chemical purity of domestic water.   The failure of the municipal water supply utility is another reason for clean bottled water, says WaterBank® Trustee, Dr. William M. Turner.

A $10 million study of air and water in Toms River, New Jersey has established a statistical link between pollution and cancer rates in a neighborhood, compared to a workplace, where toxic exposures are easier to measure, New York.

The new study's innovation was the development of elaborate computer models to estimate how much pollution was in the water and air that pregnant women in Toms River, New Jersey were exposed to between 1982 and 1996. The study may eventually be expanded to areas such as Long Island that are similarly concerned about a possible environmental role in high cancer rates.

Using those models, researchers found that girls exposed prenatally to water from a particular group of wells known to be contaminated with solvents were six times more likely to develop leukemia than girls who weren't exposed to the tainted water.   Pregnant mothers who lived directly downwind from a local chemical plant were 19 times more likely to give birth to a girl who would develop childhood leukemia, according to the report unveiled yesterday, 18 December.

Jan Schlictmann, a Boston lawyer representing 69 Toms River families who last week reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with two chemical companies and a water utility accused of causing their children's cancer, said the study is one of high importance and shows chemicals have the capacity to cause cancer even at relatively low levels if children are exposed to them in the womb, the newspaper reported.

However, Jerald Fagliano, an epidemiologist from the New Jersey State Health Department who led the six-year study, said that because childhood leukemia is so rare, there is a small chance that the study's results could be explained by a statistical fluke. There were 22 cases included in the Toms River study..

The authors found no associations between brain cancer and other nervous-system cancers examined in the study, said the newspaper. The study also pointed out that while the study found strong associations between pollution and female childhood leukemia, there were no similar statistical links to leukemia in boys, a finding the authors described as a mystery.

A spokeswoman for the chemical companies said that because of the uncertainty in the study, the companies do not believe they had anything to do with the health effects in the community.

Juan Reyes of the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said the Toms River study will become an important model for other communities concerned about high cancer rates.

That same model was followed on Long Island and resulted in an even more expensive study of breast cancer and the environment in Nassau and Suffolk counties, the results of which are expected sometime next year.

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