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February 21, 1986

Leukemia and Radium Groundwater Contamination

Author Affiliations

School of Medicine Health Sciences Center State University of New York at Stony Brook

JAMA. 1986;255(7):903-904. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370070055015

To the Editor.—  In their report on an association between leukemia rates and radium groundwater contamination, Lyman et al1 cited as support for a possible causal interpretation a report on radium dial painters of which I was the senior author.2 This requires clarification.Among 634 female radium dial painters first employed between 1915 and 1929 in the United States, three deaths were coded to leukemia and aleukemia vs 1.41 expected on the basis of US death rates.2 These numbers are small, and the standardized mortality ratio was not statistically significant.More recent reports using additional information on larger series of radium dial workers3,4 have concluded that the incidence of and mortality from leukemia are not significantly increased. The latter reports included data on women employed after 1930 and exposed to lower doses of radium than earlier workers. The statistical power of some of these tests of