WOODBRIDGE TOWNSHIP, N.J. — At least 115 people over the last three decades have developed a rare form of brain cancer after attending or working at a New Jersey high school, according to an environmental scientist who has spearheaded the effort in finding the cause behind this medical mystery.
Al Lupiano, 50, began investigating his alma matter of Colonia High School in Woodbridge, N.J. after his sister died of glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive and malignant brain tumor. But brain cancer was not so rare in Lupiano's family: Lupiano's wife was also diagnosed with a tumor in 2001, and Lupiano himself survived brain cancer after his diagnosis in 1999.
"To say (our doctor) was concerned when he discovered all three of us grew up in the same neighborhood is an understatement," Lupiano first posted on Facebook in March. "Why? There is one well-documented cause of brain tumors – radiation exposure."
According to CNN, Lupiano promised his sister before her death that he would figure out where exactly the cancer came from, and he soon discovered the common link between him, his sister and his wife: their old high school.
Taking to Facebook and a local paper, Lupiano -- who graduated from Colonial High school in 1989 -- asked the community in March whether they knew of anyone else who had attended Colonial who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Since then, Lupiano says he has counted at least 115 former students and staff members who have been diagnosed with some kind of brain tumor.
The type and severity of cancers have varied for each reported patient, according to NJ Spotlight News. Some, like Lupiano and his wife, had benign tumors, while others like Lupiano's sister and "Victim No. 55" -- an unidentified individual Lupiano provided in a list to Spotlight News -- died of glioblastomas, the same tumors that killed both the late Sen. John McCain and Beau Biden, son of Pres. Joe Biden.
The school was built in 1967, but records from that time do not indicate any potential radiation contamination. In response, the city of Woodbridge has hired the radiology and environmental remediations company T&M and Cabrera Services, Inc. to survey the area for any potential leads, according to NJ Spotlight News.
"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," Woodbridge Mayor John McCormick told CBS New York. "The only thing that could have happened potentially is fill brought in during construction, but we have no records 55 years ago,"