Scientist uncovers brain tumor cluster at high school

Rush Hour

(NewsNation) — More than 100 cases of brain tumors have been diagnosed in teachers, staff and graduates of one high school in New Jersey. The cases have been documented by a former student turned scientist who had one of the rare tumors himself.

Al Lupiano found his career and his future at Colonia High School in Woodbridge, New Jersey. It’s also where he met his wife, married today after all those years. But now he worries he took away more than just memories when he graduated in 1989.

He was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma brain tumor 10 years later, and his world stopped again in 2021. That’s when his wife received the same diagnosis. Then, his sister was found to have a deadly glioblastoma brain tumor, all on the same day. Their neurologist is in disbelief.

Speaking about the exchange with the neurologist, Lupiano said, “He says no, I don’t know what to say. He goes, the odds of one family being struck like this is like being hit by lightning on the same day.”

When Lupiano lost his sister in February, he quickly went public and started documenting former classmates and faculty from the school with the same rare brain tumors. Soon, his list reached 127 cases.

“I had made a promise to her on the deathbed, I was not going to stop. They weren’t doing enough,” Lupiano said.

Edyta Komorek, a mother of two Colonia students, was stunned by Lupiano’s findings.

“I didn’t believe it. I thought this was a mistake,” she said.

Komorek secretly took samples of dust from inside the school, outside of the school, and of soil and caulk on the property. She said they all came back with elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyl or PCBs, a known cause of cancer, as well as chlordane and heptachlor, suspected carcinogens.

“The caulk sample was 1,000 times over the federal limit. The soil sample was 2,300 times over the state limit,” Komorek said.

Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said he would have been very surprised if they took samples and did not find PCBs.

Before Komorek’s findings, McCormac contracted for radon and radiation testing that reportedly showed no elevated levels. He’s urging parents not to be overly concerned, since he says PCBs were common in construction materials until 1979.

“We’re going to do the right thing like we did last time. We’re going to probably do some more testing and see what develops, but right now it’s nothing to worry about,” McCormac said.

Still, Lupiano says he won’t stop fighting for answers.

“People say, how do you think (your sister) would feel about this, and I hope she’d be proud,” Lupiano said.

And as for Komorek, she pulled her daughters from the school last week.

The timeline for any new testing is not yet set.

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