colonia high school

Cancer Cluster Probe at NJ HS Underway After 100+ Diagnosed With Brain Tumors

More than 100 former students and staff over a 30-year period have been diagnosed with cancer

Aerial view of Colonia High School in Colonia, New Jersey.
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There are growing concerns over a medical mystery at a New Jersey high school following dozens of diagnoses of brain tumors dating back decades.

Every inch of Colonia High School -- from buildings to fields -- is being tested for radiation to determine if there is a link between the school and the number of cancer cases diagnosed amongst former students and staff.

Al Lupiano, a graduate of the high school, believes there's a link between the school and brain tumors diagnosed in 108 people over a period of three decades, ending in the early 2000s.

"If we can enrich science by showing that an unknown compound is in high concentration and link it to primary brain tumors, maybe we can protect others, remove it from our environment to make sure it never happens again," he said.

Lupiano, who is also an environmental scientist, and his wife Michelle -- both graduates of the high school -- were diagnosed with benign brain tumors 20 years apart. Lupiano's sister, also a graduate of the high school, died recently from brain cancer.

Despite the number of cases, officials first have to find if there is indeed a connection between the school grounds and the brain tumors.

Parents like Dawn Genoni are willing to wait for those results.

"I have full faith they will get to the bottom of this and they will figure out what is going on," Genoni said.

In fact, there appears to be no panic at this school over the brain tumor reports, no one asking for transfers that Dawn or her son, John, know about.

Meanwhile, the City of Woodbridge is taking the lead in the investigation, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for testing at a school that graduated roughly 15,000 people over the last 30 years.

"One hundred out of 15,000 have brain cancer -- sure sounds like something we should be concerned about," Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac told News 4 New York.

While both the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are expressing concern, they’re waiting for the testing to be complete. This could take a few more weeks as radon detectors sitting in classrooms collect data.

Ultimately, if it isn’t a radiation source that is causing these illnesses, Lupiano says other tests can be done to pinpoint a cause.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg. This is only one of many, many tests that can be performed. Frequently, in hazmat, you never find it in the first shot," Lupiano said.

CORRECTION:
The spelling of Lupiano has been corrected throughout this story.

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