News | November 16, 2020

Carleton Researcher Receives CIHR Funding To Study Health Impacts On Adults Living Near Canadian Nuclear Power Plants

Carleton University’s Paul Villeneuve has received approximately $695,000 in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support research into cancer rates and deaths among adults living near Canadian nuclear power plants.

“This funding from CIHR will enable Carleton to further expand its evidence-based knowledge around this important area of health and wellness, benefitting Canadians and people everywhere,” said Rafik Goubran, vice-president (Research and International). “This particular project is also connected to the vital research being done at Carleton involving green and sustainable energy, areas of research that Carleton excels at.”

Nuclear power is used to provide electricity in Canada – with its greatest use in Ontario, where 61 per cent of the province’s electrical generation is from 18 CANDU reactors. Barriers to increased production include public concern over nuclear waste disposal and possible health impacts of low levels of exposure to ionizing radiation. In Canada, seven per cent of the population lives within 25 kilometres of a nuclear power plant.

Ionizing radiation is a carcinogen and has been associated with other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. There are uncertainties about the health risks at low levels of exposure. While previous reports support the conclusion there are no adverse health effects from living near nuclear power plants (NPPs), these studies have many weaknesses.

These include small study populations, lack of lengthy follow-up, as well as the inability to account for residential mobility and to control for other disease risk factors. This study overcomes these limitations, by proposing to examine patterns of cancer incidence and mortality among adults who live close to the five NPPs in Canada.

This study will investigate differences in mortality and cancer rates between those who live near NPPs and those who don’t, while accounting for other determinants of health. It will also create exposure surfaces that map differences in ionizing radiation around the NPPs, and estimate how health risks vary by these exposures.

“There have been relatively few Canadian studies that have examined whether residents who live in proximity to nuclear power generating plants are at greater risk of developing cancer or premature death,” says Villeneuve.

“This funding will allow us to explore potential health risks and provide important evidence about the impacts of exposure to ionizing radiation for both the public and regulatory agencies.”

Source: Carleton University