More cases of leukaemia around Mol-Dessel nuclear site

Children living within a 15 kilometre radius of the Mol-Dessel nuclear facility have between twice and three times more chance of contracting leukaemia than children living in other parts of the country. The figures come from study and appear in an article published in Monday’s edition of the daily ‘De Morgen’.

However, despite the study showing that children in the area are statistically more likely to contract leukaemia, in absolute figures still only “a handful of children are affected”.

The Mol-Dessel facility has produced, processed and stored nuclear material for many years. After a German study revealed that children living in the vicinity of nuclear facilities run a greater risk of cancer, it was decided to carry out a study in the area around Mol-Dessel.

Moreover, the study, the results of which are published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention says that a correlation has been found between the instances of leukaemia and distance from the site and the wind direction “into which radioactive gas would be emitted”.

“Just a handful of children”

The federal nuclear watchdog FANC’s radiation expert Lodewijk Van Bladel (who is co-auteur of the report) is keen to stress that just a handful of children have been effected.

“The number of people living in Dessel, Mol and the surrounding areas is so small that the number of cases of leukaemia is also small. So you quickly arrive at a doubling or even a tripling. Follow-up research with a larger group is needed”.

The Federal Health Ministry too says that follow-up research is required. "We are aware of the research but it is statically significant enough. Follow-up research is currently being carried out.

Mr Van Bladel stresses that a causal link has not been found. Previous French and British studies and research carried out locally have shown that there is no significant link between proximity to a nuclear facility and cancers.

Furthermore, international studies have shown that cases of cancer sometimes occur in clusters, also in areas that are nowhere near nuclear facilities.