An examination of cancer epidemiology studies among populations living close to toxic waste sites

Mark B. Russi, Jonathan B. Borak, Mark R. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background. Toxic waste sites contain a broad range of suspected or confirmed human carcinogens, and remain a source of concern to many people, particularly those living in the vicinity of a site. Despite years of study, a consensus has not emerged regarding the cancer risk associated with such sites. Methods. We examined the published, peer-reviewed literature addressing cancer incidence or mortality in the vicinity of toxic waste sites between 1980 and 2006, and catalogued the methods employed by such studies. Results. Nineteen studies are described with respect to eight methodological criteria. Most were ecological, with minimal utilization of hydrogeological or air pathway modeling. Many did not catalogue whether a potable water supply was contaminated, and very few included contaminant measurements at waste sites or in subjects' homes. Most studies did not appear to be responses to a recognized cancer mortality cluster. Studies were highly variable with respect to handling of competing risk factors and multiple comparisons. Conclusion. We conclude that studies to date have generated hypotheses, but have been of limited utility in determining whether populations living near toxic waste sites are at increased cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number32
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Volume7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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