Pallone calls for action against Colonia High School cancer group


WOODBRIDGE — An influential environmental voice in the U.S. House of Representatives says not enough is being done at the state level to investigate a possible cluster of brain tumors at Colonia High School.

“The issues raised by local advocates and families require careful consideration by health and environmental experts, which is exactly why I personally summoned state and federal agencies on April 4 and their asked to investigate these serious concerns,” U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, D-NJ, said Thursday. Pallone is the president of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

New Jersey 101.5 first broke the story in late March of a possible link between school grounds and dozens of brain tumors among former staff and graduates. Since then, the concerns of the Woodbridge community have drawn the attention of national media, Governor Phil Murphy, Pallone, and state and federal agencies.

These concerns among locals have only grown over the past five weeks. In response, some sent an “urgent” letter to Murphy, Pallone and other state officials.

The letter was signed by 71 parents, former students and township residents, according to the parent of a CHS student. This comes after Superintendent Joseph Massimino informed the community that he does not have the authority to create a distance learning option.

“Our children and staff at Colonia High School deserve greater involvement from state and federal agencies,” the letter reads. “Agencies have acknowledged their concerns about the potential cancer cluster, but are not performing any testing outside of radiation and radon which the township has undertaken, even though the school remains open.”

Spokeswoman Mary Werden confirmed that Pallone’s office received the letter. The representative agrees with their sense of urgency.

Pallone said Woodbridge was “lucky” to have Mayor John McCormac for his efforts to secure local environmental testing.

New Jersey 101.5 first reported that Woodbridge hired a consultant to test the grounds in early April. The results of these radon and radiation tests are expected later this month.

But Pallone called on state and federal agencies.

“So far, experts have provided the community with important scientific advice, but I still haven’t seen enough action,” Pallone said.

“We still need environmental research to see if there is evidence for concern. We also need to check reported cases of cancer and determine based on specific time, type and frequency whether they are statistically higher than normal rates.”

Pallone said he called on state agencies to take two specific actions. Although he can call for action, Pallone is a federal representative and has limited legal authority over state agencies.

First, Pallone wants the state Department of Environmental Protection to fully reimburse Woodbridge for the costs of radon and radiation testing. The cost was $221,350, according to a resolution approved by Woodbridge council. He also wants the state agency to direct and pay for any future testing.

Next, Pallone asks the state Department of Health to collect data on recorded cases and verify the information. That would likely mean reaching out to Al Lupiano, the CHS grad who first investigated a possible link between cancer and school.

“There’s a reason the state has a cancer registry and epidemiologists,” Pallone said. “I understand the state has agreed to work with Mayor McCormac to create a portal to collect the necessary information.”

Lupiano began investigating a possible link between school and a high number of brain tumors. He began in February after his sister, another CHS graduate, died of a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.

The former EPA emergency responder and his wife Michele, also an alumnus, also developed brain tumors.

As of April 21, Lupiano said the number of brain tumors among graduates and former staff stood at 115.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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