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Why nearly 100 people at an NJ school were diagnosed with brain cancer

A cancer survivor vows to unravel the twisted mystery of why nearly 100 people linked to a New Jersey high school have developed “extremely” rare malignant brain tumors.

Al Lupiano is among 94 former staff and students at Colonia High School in the Woodbridge Township School District who have been affected by the devastating diagnoses in recent years.

“I won’t rest until I have answers,” Lupiano, 50, explained in an interview with NJ.com and Star Ledger on Thursday. “I will uncover the truth.”

Among the others diagnosed with brain cancer was Lupiano’s younger sister, who died of the disease in February aged 44.

The devoted brother promised his sister on her deathbed that he would get to the root of the apparent cluster of cancer at Colonia High. On Tuesday – following a public push from Lupiano – local officials authorized an emergency investigation into the school.

Al Lupiano and his wife Michelle - A cancer survivor wants to find out why nearly 100 people connected to a New Jersey high school have developed rare brain tumors.
Al Lupiano and wife Michelle. Last year his wife – who also attended Colonia – was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. That same day, Lupiano’s younger sister, Angela DeCillis, another Colonia graduate, learned that she too had brain cancer.
Al Lupiano

“There could be a real problem here and our residents deserve to know if there are any dangers,” Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said in a statement. “We’re all concerned, and we all want to get to the bottom of it. This is definitely not normal.”

Various radiological surveys, including testing of indoor air samples for radon, will be conducted on the school’s 28-acre campus beginning this weekend.

Lupiano was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the late 1990s at the age of 27. He recovered from the illness.

Last year his wife – who also attended Colonia – was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. That same day, Lupiano’s younger sister, Angela DeCillis, another Colonia graduate, learned that she too had brain cancer.

Al Lupiano's Sister Angela DeCillis - A cancer survivor vows to uncover why nearly 100 people connected to a New Jersey high school have developed rare brain tumors.
Lupiano promised his sister Angela DeCillis on her deathbed that he would get to the root of the apparent cancer cluster at Colonia High.
Al Lupiano
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The school was built in 1967. Today, around 1,300 students are enrolled there, many of whom are said to be worried and concerned about the investigation.
Gymnasium Colonia
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Lupiano has contacted the state Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for help – which is reportedly still in the “early stages.”

After his sister’s death in February, Lupiano became convinced of a link between the Colonia campus and the brain tumors he, his wife and sister suffered from. Last month he started a Facebook group asking locals if they know of other people connected to the school who have been affected by similar diagnoses.

In less than six weeks, Lupiano says he collected the names of 94 people associated with the school who have developed brain tumors.

The troubling development made headlines this week after CBS News took it nationally. A subsequent TikTok video discussing the medical mystery has also racked up more than 2.2 million viral views in just 24 hours.

The vast majority of those who develop brain cancer “graduated between 1975 and 2000, although outliers did not graduate until 2014,” according to Star Ledger.

The diagnoses include “several types of primary brain tumors, including cancerous forms such as glioblastomas and noncancerous but debilitating masses such as acoustic neuromas, hemangioblastomas, and meningiomas.”

“Finding something like this…is a significant discovery,” said Dr. Sumul Raval, one of New Jersey’s top neuro-oncologists, across the street from the store. “You don’t normally get radiation in a high school. . . unless something happens in that area that we don’t know about,” Raval added, calling for an immediate investigation.

The viral TikTok video about the alleged cancer cluster was shared on Wednesday by well-known personality Dr. Joe Whittington posted.

Whittington — a board-certified MD in California — claimed that several of the brain tumors developed by former staff and students at Colonia High were glioblastoma multiforme — an aggressive cancer that spreads to brain tissue.

While the exact number of former faculty and staff members who have been diagnosed with glioblastoma is not known for certain, the cancer is extremely rare. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, glioblastoma has an incidence of 3.21 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, the TikTok video sparked panic and a slew of conspiracy theory-style comments, with people claiming mold, toxic waste, asbestos, and nearby cell phone towers could all be causing the buildup.

Lupiano also spoke to CBS News on Thursday and said he now believes ionizing radiation may be to blame for the health problems.

“What I find alarming is that there’s really only one environmental link to primary brain tumors, and that’s ionizing radiation,” he explained. “It’s not contaminated water. It’s not air. It’s not something in the ground. It’s not something that’s done to us because of bad habits.”

The school was built on an acre of empty land in 1967, and Mayor McCormac told the news channel he was at a loss as to what could be causing the cancers.

Al Lupiano - A cancer survivor vows to uncover why nearly 100 people linked to a New Jersey high school have developed rare brain tumors.
Lupiano claims some contaminated soil was removed from the site when it closed in 1967 — the same year Colonia High School was built. He now wonders if part of this earth ended up in the schoolyard
CBS2

He has reached out to the state Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Protection and the federal agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for help — which is reportedly still in its “early stages,” according to CBS News’ report.

Lupiano told NJ Spotlight News that the school is less than 12 miles from the Middlesex Sampling Plant — a site managed by the Manhattan Project to crush, dry, store, pack and ship uranium ore for the development of the atomic bomb was used.

He claims some contaminated soil was removed from the site when it closed in 1967 — the same year Colonia High School was built. Lupiano now wonders if part of this earth ended up on the school grounds.

Today, approximately 1,300 students are enrolled in Colonia, many of whom are said to be “concerned” about the possible cancer cluster.

“We’re looking at possible things we can do between the city and the school, and they said they’ll look at anything we can think of,” Mayor McCormac said.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/14/why-nearly-100-people-at-nj-school-got-brain-tumors/ Why nearly 100 people at an NJ school were diagnosed with brain cancer

JACLYN DIAZ

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