A systematic review and meta-analysis of haematological malignancies in residents living near petrochemical facilities

Calvin Jephcote*, David Brown, Thomas Verbeek, Alice Mah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The petrochemical industry is a major source of hazardous and toxic air pollutants that are recognised to have mutagenic and carcinogenic properties. A wealth of occupational epidemiology literature exists around the petrochemical industry, with adverse haematological effects identified in employees exposed to 'low' concentrations of aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene). Releases from the petrochemical industry are also thought to increase the risk of cancer incidence in fenceline communities. However, this emerging and at times inconclusive evidence base remains fragmented. The present study's aim was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies investigating the association between incidences of haematological malignancy and residential exposure to the petrochemical industry. Methods: Epidemiological studies reporting the risk of haematological malignancies (Leukaemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Multiple myeloma) were included where the following criteria were met: (i) Cancer incidence is diagnosed by a medical professional and coded in accordance to the International Classification of Diseases; (ii) A clear definition of fenceline communities is provided, indicating the proximity between exposed residents and petrochemical activities; and (iii) Exposure is representative of normal operating conditions, not emergency events. Two investigators independently extracted information on study characteristics and outcomes in accordance with PRISMA and MOOSE guidelines. Relative risks and their 95% confidence intervals were pooled across studies for the four categories of haematological malignancy, using a random effects meta-analysis. Results: The systematic review identified 16 unique studies, which collectively record the incidence of haematological malignancies across 187,585 residents living close to a petrochemical operation. Residents from fenceline communities, less than 5 km from a petrochemical facility (refinery or manufacturer of commercial chemicals), had a 30% higher risk of developing Leukaemia than residents from communities with no petrochemical activity. Meanwhile, the association between exposure and rarer forms of haematological malignancy remains uncertain, with further research required. Conclusions: The risk of developing Leukaemia appears higher in individuals living near a petrochemical facility. This highlights the need for further policy to regulate the release of carcinogens by industry. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Environmental justice
  • Haematological
  • Leukaemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Meta-analysis
  • Myeloma
  • Petrochemical
  • Refinery

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