Almost 100 people linked to a single New Jersey high school have developed rare forms of brain tumor. The cause is yet to be uncovered, but some researchers suspect that environmental factors may be the problem.
Speaking to NJ.com, environmental scientist Al Lupiano explained that he is one of 94 alumni or workers from Colonia High School in New Jersey's Woodbridge who have developed brain tumors – both cancerous and non-cancerous – including an aggressive type called glioblastoma.
Lupiano was diagnosed with a brain tumor 20 years ago, and has since recovered. His investigation was sparked when his wife and sister, both of whom attended the same school, also fell sick with similar brain tumors.
After his sister passed away, he posted on Facebook to see whether other former students or teachers at Colonia High School had run into similar problems. He was shocked by the response – within weeks, he had accumulated almost 100 names of people who also said they had experienced brain tumors.
Most of these people are reported to have graduated between 1975 and 2000, although there are some that graduated from the high school as recently as 2014
It’s still early days, so no one is yet certain why so many people linked to the high school have developed brain tumors, but the local mayor has reached out to the state Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection, and the Federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry for further investigation.
Generally speaking, the causes of glioblastoma are largely unknown. Genetics is thought to play a role, but some research has also linked it to exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, petroleum, synthetic rubber, and vinyl chloride. Lupiano believes that radiation may also be a topic to focus on.
"What I find alarming is there's truly only one environmental link to primary brain tumors and that's ionizing radiation. It's not contaminated water. It's not air. It's not something in soil. It's not something done to us due to bad habits," Lupiano told CBS News.
Furthermore, it's uncertain why this particular high school, built in the 1960s, appears to have such a direct link to these numerous reports of brain tumors.
"It was virgin land. It was woods. The high school was the first thing to be there, so there was probably nothing in the ground at that time. The only thing that could have happened, potentially, was fill that was brought in during construction. We have no records 55 years ago," Woodbridge Mayor John McCormick said.