The town of Woodbridge, New Jersey, along with local and federal environmental agencies, is investigating over 100 graduates of the same high school that had rare brain tumors.
Al Lupiano, a graduate of Colonia High School, said that, since posting his original theory possibly linking brain tumor diagnoses to graduates in the 1990s and early 2000s, he has gathered at least 110 graduates with rare brain tumors.
The graduates who were diagnosed include Lupiano, his wife and his late sister.
''It's overwhelming. … I'm doing this not only for my wife, my sister — my nieces are currently in the school — but this deserves further understanding. Further explanation of what occurred at that high school over these decades of people being in the building. I don't think this is the end of the story.
''I have a really bad feeling we're going to find contamination beyond the high school. There's lots and lots of people calling me, saying, 'Look, I didn't go to the high school, but I live a mile away, and we call our block cancer alley,' '' Lupiano said.
The 110 names Lupiano gathered on his list have been diagnosed with either cancerous or noncancerous primary brain tumors, meaning that the tumors originate in the brain.
An environmental scientist who has tested samples for toxins over a 33-year career, Lupiano has suggested that the school's grounds could be contaminated from a Middlesex, New Jersey, sampling plant as a potential linking factor behind the tumors. The now-closed plant is about a 30-minute drive from the school.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' New York Division, the plant was an entry point for uranium ores ''imported for use in the nation's early atomic energy program, were assayed at the Middlesex Sampling Plant and then shipped to other sites for processing.'' It received uranium, thorium and beryllium ores between the 1940s and 1967, the year Colonia High School was built.
The New York Division's website states that even though the plant then ''decontaminated to the standards in effect at the time,'' it ''overlooked during decontamination were traces of radioactive materials that had been carried offsite over the years by wind and rain to yards of neighboring homes.''
The website adds: ''Also, records later revealed that in 1948, some radioactively contaminated materials had been trucked from the plant to the Middlesex Municipal Landfill (MML), one-half mile away. In the 1980[s], the contaminated residential properties were cleaned up, and the excavated soil was stored at the site in a specially constructed pile, known as the Vicinity Properties (VP) pile.''
NJ Spotlight News notes that soil from the plant could have been trucked to Colonia High School during its construction in 1967. According to the Mayo Clinic, people exposed to ionizing radiation are at increased risk for developing primary brain tumors, whether benign or malignant.
''[W]e have really solid data on primary brain tumors because of what we learned after World War Two, what we learned after Chernobyl. The medical journals are rich with data supporting ionizing radiation causes brain tumors.
''So that's why I focused on cancerous or malignant and benign — because they're triggered by the same thing, and we have really solid statistics to say all," Lupiano said, adding that he has seen ''what happens when our government and our military [are] involved with leaving a location and not being very good environmental stewards.''
''They tend to leave stuff behind, and that stuff tends to migrate from one location to another. So it's not unheard of. That contaminated fill would have been spread all over this town from a point source that I've yet to identify that was illegally dumped back in the 40s, 50s and 60s. So if that's the case, that could explain why we have pockets of these rare cancers all over Woodbridge Township,'' Lupiano explained.
The New Jersey Departments of Health and Environmental Protection say they are involved in an investigation, saying in a joint statement: ''[O]ur agencies are aware of the concerns raised by local residents, particularly as they relate to Colonia High School, and are partnering with Mayor McCormac and Woodbridge Township to better understand the issue and determine whether any relevant environmental exposure concerns are present at the site.
''The Departments stand ready to assist Woodbridge in reviewing any environmental data it collects to determine appropriate next steps. The Department of Health will work with the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to provide an assessment of the potential health effects.
''If there are any potential environmental exposure pathways identified and a need for further environmental sampling, the state Health Department will work cooperatively with ATSDR to conduct a public health assessment and evaluate the potential for health effects.''
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that it has ''received information about the community's concerns related to Colonia High School'' and ''will communicate with both the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Department of Health as they investigate the matter.''
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