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Investigation finds no ‘evidence’ of harmful radiation at New Jersey school

There is “no evidence” of harmful radiation at a New Jersey school attended by 120 former students and staff who developed brain cancer, officials say.

Mayor John McCormac heralded the findings as “excellent news” for all current and former Colonia High School students, saying it should allay any concerns.

But many parents reacted angrily to the news, threatening to withdraw their children from school unless more testing is done.

The former student who first discovered the cancer cases, Al Lupiano, promised not to stop investigating the matter. He developed glioblastoma, a rare type of brain cancer, in 2003, followed by his wife and then his sister, who died aged 44.

The 1,300-student school was thrust into the national spotlight for the cases last month after it was revealed it was just 12 miles from a former factory used to store uranium and make atomic bombs.

State health chiefs immediately launched an investigation of school buildings and grounds to look for worrying levels of radiation.

But they dismissed theories that radioactive substances had leaked from the facility onto school grounds or that a radioactive rock that had been in a classroom until the 1990s had triggered the cases.

Instead, officials said the number of reported cases was similar to the 98 they would have expected in a cluster of this size at any school.

The authorities have stated that

Officials have stated there is “no evidence” of harmful radiation levels at Colonia High School in Woodbridge, New Jersey, of which more than 120 alumni and staff have developed brain cancer.

Mayor John McCormac called the findings

Dr. Judith Persichilli of the state Department of Health said they would not recommend further testing.

Mayor John McCormac (left) heralded the findings as “fantastic news” at a news conference yesterday and said they should allay any lingering concerns. Dr. Judith Persichilli of the state Department of Health said they would not recommend further testing.

Parents have reacted angrily to the news by organizing a protest outside the school and demanding more tests be carried out.  Former student Al Lupiano, who had a brain tumor 20 years ago before his wife (pictured together) had one, vowed to continue investigating the school.

Parents have reacted angrily to the news by organizing a protest outside the school and demanding more tests be carried out. Former student Al Lupiano, who had a brain tumor 20 years ago before his wife (pictured together) had one, vowed to continue investigating the school.

It is just 12 miles from a former uranium processing plant, from which locals fear radiation has leaked.

It is just 12 miles from a former uranium processing plant, from which locals fear radiation has leaked.

The 50-year-old claims the illnesses can be traced back to a nearby sampling facility (pictured) that dealt with uranium for the first atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project.

The 50-year-old claims the illnesses can be traced back to a nearby sampling facility (pictured) that dealt with uranium for the first atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project.

For the tests, experts were sent to the school grounds every weekend for a month to check for high levels of radiation.

Canisters that detect radon, a radioactive gas, were also placed in hallways and classrooms for up to a month.

But after an extensive search, officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection concluded there was no radiation outside expected levels.

Glioblastoma, the rare and aggressive brain cancer that has only a 40 percent one-year survival rate

Glioblastoma, or glioblastoma multiforme, is an aggressive type of brain cancer.

It develops when cells that support nerves in the brain begin to divide uncontrollably.

These fast-growing cells invade nearby brain tissue, making them difficult to kill, but they usually don’t spread to other areas of the body.

Survival rates are low, with less than half of patients surviving more than a year after diagnosis.

About one in 30,000 people have the condition, estimates suggest.

What are the symptoms?

Warning signs vary depending on where the cancer is in the brain. They include:

  • persistent headaches;
  • double or blurred vision;
  • vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Changes in mood and personality;
  • seizures;
  • Gradual onset of speech problems;

How is it diagnosed?

Brain scans are used to detect cancer.

Glioblastoma is a type of stage IV brain cancer, which means it is growing rapidly.

Can it be treated?

Surgery is the main treatment for this brain cancer.

Specialist doctors remove as much of the cancer as possible during the operation. They may suggest that patients remain awake during the procedure.

Radiation therapy that uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells may also be used.

After surgery, some patients are offered chemotherapy for several months.

What are the survival rates?

About 40 percent of patients survive more than a year after diagnosis, says the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Only 17 percent of patients survive more than two years after diagnosis.

Experts warn that it can cause death within six months if left untreated.

Am I at risk?

This cancer is most often diagnosed in men around the age of 64, although it can occur in people of all genders and age groups.

Previous therapeutic radiation and an impaired immune response are also risk factors for the condition.

Font: UK cancer researchand the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

There was also a review of a report on the level of radiation emitted by a rock that was in the school until 1997.

But Dr. Judith Persichilli, who headed the state Department of Health’s research arm, said at a news conference Thursday that “no harmful health impacts are expected from external exposure to radiation from the rock at this classroom”.

He also reviewed the rates of brain cancer that would be expected among the school’s staff and students.

Cancers have a background rate, and a certain number of people are expected to be diagnosed with the disease each year.

Official statistics revealed that in a group of years the size of Colonia High School around 98 cases were anticipated among staff and students.

Persichilli did not say whether this number was significantly different from the 120 identified, which would suggest whether there was an unusual increase at the school.

They concluded by saying that no further radiation testing was needed at the school.

The mayor of Woodbridge, where the school is located, John McCormac, announced the results of the investigation at a press conference yesterday.

“We are very pleased to announce that our extensive radon and radiation testing of the interior and exterior of the school building turned up no evidence of cancer-causing hazards that warrant further investigation.

“This is great news for current Colonia High School students and their parents, who were concerned about their safety, along with current staff members, and it’s also great news for all of the former students who attended and the staff who I work there”.

He added: ‘There is no cause and effect relationship between those illnesses and the Colonia High building or grounds.’

But parents criticized the announcement and gathered outside the school gates to demand more action.

Edyta Komorek, whose daughter is a sophomore at the school, said NJ.com: ‘Definitely not enough. It just frustrates me and makes me angry.

‘I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my children, because I don’t think it’s correct to say that there is no threat to teachers and students if not a single soil or groundwater sample is taken.’

Lupiano, who first disclosed the situation, said he had no plans to stop investigating what had triggered the cancer cases at the school.

“My heart aches for my friends, family and fellow alumni, teachers and staff,” he said on social media.

‘I don’t know about you… but I will not give up so easily… with or without the help of others, the truth will be discovered and the guilty will be held accountable.’

Lupiano had a brain tumor 20 years ago, before his wife had one and so did his sister, who died in February aged just 44.

The 50-year-old says the illnesses could be traced back to a nearby sampling plant that handled uranium for the Manhattan Project’s first atomic bomb.

He swore on his sister’s deathbed that he would discover the cause of the illness, adding, “I will not rest until I have answers.”

Lupiano was diagnosed with a tumor in 2002, but made no connection to the school until his wife and sister also became ill.

The latter, Angela DeCillis, died in March and that encouraged him to investigate the cause.

He started with a small group of patients, but as the number grew, he noticed that people had either worked or studied at the same high school.

“Several types” of brain cancer were detected, including the rare form of glioblastoma. They also included acoustic neuromas, hemangioblastomas, and meningiomas.

Pictured: Workers walk through the school's sports fields as they test for radiation levels.

Pictured: Workers walk through the school’s sports fields as they test for radiation levels.

The glioblastoma, or glioblastoma multiforme, which affected Lupiano, is an aggressive type of brain cancer.

It develops when cells that support nerves in the brain begin to divide uncontrollably.

These fast-growing cells invade nearby brain tissue, making them difficult to kill, but they usually don’t spread to other areas of the body.

Survival rates are low, with less than half of patients surviving more than a year after diagnosis.

About one in 30,000 people have the condition, estimates suggest.

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