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Why nearly 100 people at NJ school got brain tumors

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A cancer survivor is vowing to untangle the twisted mystery of why almost 100 people associated with a New Jersey high school have developed “extremely” rare malignant brain tumors.

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

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

Among the others diagnosed with brain cancer was Lupiano’s younger sister, who passed away from the disease in February at the age of 44.

The devoted brother promised his sister on her deathbed that he would get to the bottom of what was causing the apparent cancer cluster at Colonia High. On Tuesday — after a public push by Lupiano — local officials approved an emergency probe of the school.

Al Lupiano, and wife Michelle. Last year, his wife — who also attended Colonia —  was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. On the exact same day, Lupiano’s younger sister, Angela DeCillis, another alumna of Colonia, 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 this. This is definitely not normal.”

Starting this weekend, various radiological assessments will be conducted across the school’s 28-acre campus, including the testing of indoor air samples for radon.

Lupiano was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in the late 1990s, at the age of 27. He went on to recover from the disease.

Last year, his wife — who also attended Colonia —  was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. On the exact same day, Lupiano’s younger sister, Angela DeCillis, another alumna of Colonia, learned that she, too, had brain cancer.

Al Lupiano's sister, Angela DeCillis - A cancer survivor is vowing to uncover why almost 100 people associated with 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 bottom of what was causing the apparent cancer cluster at Colonia High.
Al Lupiano

After his sister’s death in February, Lupiano became convinced of a link between the Colonia campus and the brain cancers he, his wife and his sister had developed. Last month, he started a Facebook group asking locals whether they knew of any other people associated with the school who had been stricken by similar diagnoses.

The school was built back in 1967. Today, it enrolls around 1,300 students, many of whom are said to be concerned and anxious about the probe. Lupiano has reached out to the state Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for help — which is reportedly still in the “early stages.”
Colonia High School

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

The disturbing development became headline news this week after CBS News took it national. 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 have developed brain tumors “graduated between 1975 and 2000, although outliers have come as recently as a 2014 graduate,” according to the Star Ledger.

The diagnoses 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,” Dr. Sumul Raval, one of New Jersey’s top neuro-oncologists, told the outlet. “Normally speaking, you don’t get radiation in a high school . . . unless something is going on in that area that we don’t know,” Raval added, calling for an immediate investigation.

The viral TikTok video discussing the purported cancer cluster was posted Wednesday by popular personality, Dr. Joe Whittington.

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

While the exact number of former faculty and staff diagnosed with glioblastoma is not precisely known, the cancer is exceedingly 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 range of conspiracy-theory style comments, with people claiming mold, toxic waste, asbestos and nearby cellphone towers could all be causing the cluster.

Lupiano also spoke with CBS News on Thursday, saying he now believes ionizing radiation must be responsible for the health issues.

“What I find alarming is there’s truly only one environmental link to primary brain tumors, and that’s ionizing radiation,” he declared. “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.”

The school was built back in 1967 on acres of empty land, with Mayor McCormac telling the news network he is stumped as to what could be causing the cancers.

Al Lupiano - A cancer survivor is vowing to uncover why almost 100 people associated with a New Jersey high school have developed rare brain tumors.
Lupiano alleges that some contaminated soil was removed from the site when it closed down in 1967 — the same year Colonia High School was built. He now wonders whether some of that soil ended up on the school groun
CBS2

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

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

He alleges that some contaminated soil was removed from the site when it closed down in 1967 — the same year Colonia High School was built. Lupiano is now wondering whether some of that soil ended up on the school grounds.

Today, Colonia enrolls approximately 1,300 students, with many said to be “anxious” about the possible cancer cluster.

“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,” Mayor McCormac said.



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