An investigation has been launched after more than 100 people who attended a New Jersey high school all appeared to contract a ‘rare’ form of brain cancer years after they graduated or worked there.
The apparent link was uncovered by a former student of the Colonia High School in Woodbridge, New Jersey after Al Lupiano, now 50, suffered a supposedly ‘rare’ brain tumor some 20 years ago.
He initially thought nothing of it until his wife was diagnosed with the exact same form of glioblastoma followed by his sister who also came down with the aggressive tumor, eventually taking her life last month.
Al Lupiano, 50, and his wife, Michele, both attended Colonia High School in New Jersey together and both have rare brain tumors
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, glioblastoma is normally extremely rare with an incidence of 3.21 per 100,000 people, but since asking for others to get in touch, 102 people who passed through the school between 1975 and 2000 have all suffered from the same type of brain cancer.
Lupiano, an environmental scientist, decided to post about his experiences on Facebook, convinced there was something that linked his sister’s untimely death with his and his wife’s experiences.
Woodbridge officials are now looking further into the matter to try and determine an underlying cause.
Lupiano’s 44-year-old younger sister, Angela DeCillis, passed away in March. His wife, Michele is seen, right
Lupiano vowed to his sister that he would uncover the cause of the tumors
Lupiano was diagnosed with his tumor in 2002.
During his research to uncover the truth, he initially began with a small pool of patients but as the numbers grew, he noticed that those suffering had either worked or attended the same high school.
‘I started doing some research and the three became five, the five became seven, the seven became 15,’ Al Lupiano said.
‘Fast forward to August of last year. My sister received the news she had a primary brain tumor, herself. Unfortunately, it turned out to be stage 4 glioblastoma. Two hours later, we received information that my wife also had a primary brain tumor,’ Mr Lupiano told CBS News.
Lupiano’s 44-year-old younger sister, Angela DeCillis, passed away in March which spurred on this latest drive to find out more. He promised on her deathbed to uncover the truth behind the terrible disease.
‘I will not rest until I have answers. I will uncover the truth’, he vowed to NJ.com.
So far, 102 people who attended the school or worked there have had cancerous tumors
Six weeks ago he reached out to former classmates and teachers from Colonia High School on Facebook to ask if any of them were also dealing with rare brain tumors.
His inbox was flooded with replies.
The vast majority of those who have developed brain tumors ‘graduated between 1975 and 2000 although there is one case as recently as 2014.
‘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 said.
Lupiano attempted to find out what was in the school’s location before its construction.
‘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, pictured, said
‘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 to CBS.
The state’s Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry are all now investigating the cases.
The diagnoses from the more than 100 people who have made contact with Lupiano include ‘several types of primary brain tumors, including cancerous forms like glioblastoma and noncancerous yet debilitating masses such as acoustic neuromas, haemangioblastomas and meningiomas.’
‘To find something like this … is a significant discovery,’ said Dr. Sumul Raval to NJ.com.
Lupiano believes that some contaminated soil that was removed from a nearby site used to build an atomic bomb may have been dumped in grounds where the school was built
‘Normally speaking, you don’t get radiation in a high school . . . unless something is going on in that area that we don’t know.’
‘There could be a real problem here, and our residents deserve to know if there are any dangers,’ McCormick said. ‘We’re all concerned, and we all want to get to the bottom of this. This is definitely not normal.
‘We are looking at possible things that we can do between the town and school, and they said they will look at anything we come up with,’ McCormick added.
‘I’m a lifelong resident here. I raised my family here. So the health and safety of our students is of paramount importance to me,’ district superintendent, Dr Joseph Massimo said.
Lupiano has so far shared one theory, telling NJ Spotlight News that the school was located 12 miles from the Middlesex Sampling Plant which was used to crush, dry, store, package and ship uranium ore for the development of the atomic bomb.
He alleges that some of the contaminated soil was remove from the site after it shut down in 1967 – the same year Colonia High School was built.
Lupiano wonders if some of the contaminated soil might have somehow ended up on the school grounds.