Local and federal environmental agencies say they are assisting the town of Woodbridge, New Jersey, in its investigation into more than 100 graduates of the same high school that have been diagnosed with rare brain tumors.
Al Lupiano, a graduate of Colonia High School, tells Fox News Digital that since posting his theory about an apparent link between brain tumor diagnoses in 1990s and early 2000s graduates of Colonia High School — including himself, his wife and his sister, who recently died of cancer — on Facebook in March, he has gathered the names of at least 110 graduates with rare brain tumors.
"It's overwhelming. … I'm doing this not only for my wife, my sister — my nieces are currently in the school — but this deserves further understanding. Further explanation of what occurred at that high school over these decades of people being in the building," Lupiano said. "I don't think this is the end of the story. I have a really bad feeling we're going to find contamination beyond the high school. There's lots and lots of people calling me, saying, 'Look, I didn't go to the high school, but I live a mile away, and we call our block cancer alley.'"
In 1999, when he was just 27, Lupiano was diagnosed with a rare, benign brain tumor for someone his age called Acoustic Neuroma (AN). Last summer, Lupiano's wife and now-deceased sister were diagnosed with rare malignant brain tumors on the same day. His wife was similarly diagnosed with a malignant AN tumor, and his sister was diagnosed with malignant Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), which has an incident rate of 30 out of every 1 million people.
The 110 people that Lupiano has counted on his list of former Colonia High School graduates have been diagnosed with cancerous or noncancerous primary brain tumors, meaning they originated in the brain. Secondary brain tumors, which originate elsewhere in the body and then spread to the brain, are more common.
Lupiano, an environmental scientist who tested ground samples for toxins over the course of his 33-year career, has suggested that the school's grounds could be contaminated, pointing to Middlesex, New Jersey, sampling plant as a potential linking factor behind the 100-plus tumors. The plant, which has since closed, is about a 30-minute drive from Colonia High School.
It was an entry point for uranium ores that were "imported for use in the nation’s early atomic energy program, were assayed at the Middlesex Sampling Plant and then shipped to other sites for processing," according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New York Division.
The plant received uranium, thorium and beryllium ores between the 1940s and 1967, which is the same year Colonia High School was built.
The plant then "decontaminated to the standards in effect at the time," though "overlooked during decontamination were traces of radioactive materials that had been carried offsite over the years by wind and rain to yards of neighboring homes," the USACE New York Division said on its website.
"Also, records later revealed that in 1948, some radioactively contaminated materials had been trucked from the plant to the Middlesex Municipal Landfill (MML), one-half mile away. In the 1980[s], the contaminated residential properties were cleaned up, and the excavated soil was stored at the site in a specially constructed pile, known as the Vicinity Properties (VP) pile," the USACE New York Division's website states.
It is possible that soil from the plant had been trucked to Colonia High School during its construction in 1967, according to the NJ Spotlight.
People who have been exposed to ionizing radiation have an increased risk of developing primary brain tumors, whether they are malignant or benign, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"[W]e have really solid data on primary brain tumors because of what we learned after World War Two, what we learned after Chernobyl," Lupiano explained. "The medical journals are rich with data supporting ionizing radiation causes brain tumors. So that's why I focused on cancerous or malignant and benign — because they're triggered by the same thing, and we have really solid statistics to say all."
Lupaino says he has witnessed, in his career, "what happens when our government and our military [are] involved with leaving a location and not being very good environmental stewards."
"They tend to leave stuff behind, and that stuff tends to migrate from one location to another. So it's not unheard of. That contaminated fill would have been spread all over this town from a point source that I've yet to identify that was illegally dumped back in the 40s, 50s and 60s," he said. "So if that's the case, that could explain why we have pockets of these rare cancers all over Woodbridge Township."
The New Jersey Departments of Health (DOH) and Environmental Protection (DEP) say they are involved in an investigation into the apparent cancer cluster, though Lupiano says he has not received requests for information from either agency.
"Our agencies are aware of the concerns raised by local residents, particularly as they relate to Colonia High School, and are partnering with Mayor McCormac and Woodbridge Township to better understand the issue and determine whether any relevant environmental exposure concerns are present at the site," the DOH and DEP said in a joint statement. "The Departments stand ready to assist Woodbridge in reviewing any environmental data it collects to determine appropriate next steps."
The agencies continued: "The Department of Health will work with the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to provide an assessment of the potential health effects. If there are any potential environmental exposure pathways identified and a need for further environmental sampling, the state Health Department will work cooperatively with ATSDR to conduct a public health assessment and evaluate the potential for health effects."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also said in a statement that it has "received information about the community's concerns related to Colonia High School and "will communicate with both the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Department of Health as they investigate the matter."
Lupiano, however, says Woodbridge Mayor McCormac is the only government official who has reached out to him for information.
"Seven weeks … we've been waiting for them to take a drive from Edison [New Jersey] to Colonia, New Jersey. I don't get that," he said. "[A]t least pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey Al, what do you see?’ And I would be happy — here's my list. Please, look at this. This is 18 hours a day. I'm exhausted. I want someone else to go to."