What We Know About The Mysterious Brain Tumor Outbreak At A NJ High School

A disturbing mystery is unfolding in New Jersey, where dozens of people with ties to the same high school are being diagnosed with brain tumors. According to Fox News, one man, Al Lupiano, is responsible for raising concerns about the high number of brain tumor cases in graduates and staff members of Colonia High School in Woodbridge, New Jersey, a town not far outside of New York City. Lupiano — who was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 1999 when he was 27 years old — realized something may be amiss when his wife and sister, who had both attended the school, were each diagnosed with brain tumors. Lupiano's sister later died from Glioblastoma Multiforme, a rare form of cancer reportedly found in only about 3 out of every 100,000 people (via the American Association of Neurological Surgeons).

In March 2022, Lupiano posted his theory about the connection between the school and both cancerous and noncancerous tumors and within only a month he had amassed a list of 110 individuals with connections to Colonia High School who were diagnosed with tumors.

History of Colonia High School

Colonia High School is situated in the town of Woodbridge in New Jersey's Middlesex County, about 30 miles southwest of New York City. Interstate 95, one of the busiest highways in the country, runs the along the East Coast and passes through town.

According to the school district's website, Colonia High School was built in 1967 and typically has around 1,300 students enrolled at any given time. The district touts that the school was named one of "America's Most Challenging High Schools" by The Washington Post in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The school has also received Bronze and Silver Medal Awards from U.S. News & World Report.

The school made headlines in 1997 when a science demonstration involving a Geiger counter led to the school being evacuated. A science teacher was showing her class how it worked using small, store-bought samples, and at the students' request tested it on samples kept in a classroom closet. One of them, a rock the size of a grapefruit, caused the Geiger counter to go haywire and was stashed away in a lead-lined box by officials in Haz-Mat suits. According to the Associated Press, scientists said at the time that the rock never posed any safety threats.

Who appears to have been affected?

The people that have contacted Lupiano all had ties to Colonia High School, with many of them being graduates. According to NJ.com, many of those diagnosed attended and graduated the school in the 1990s and 2000s, although some cases involve individuals who graduated as far back as 1975 and as recently as 2014.

There is growing concern that the issue may extend beyond the school and into the surrounding community. "I have a really bad feeling we're going to find contamination beyond the high school," Lupiano said, according to Fox News. "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.'"

Lupiano also said that one of the reasons for his efforts to raise concerns over what seems to have been happening in and around Colonia High School is that he has nieces currently attending the school.

What types of cancers are being found?

According to Fox News, there have been instances of both malignant and benign brain tumors being discovered in former Colonia High School attendees. Lupiano was diagnosed in 1999 with a benign tumor known as Acoustic Neuroma. According to the Mayo Clinic, an Acoustic Neuroma is a slow-growing tumor that is found on the primary nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. Meanwhile, Lupianio's wife was diagnosed with a malignant, or cancerous, Acoustic Neuroma, while his sister, who has since died, was diagnosed with ​​malignant Glioblastoma Multiforme. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, this is a fast-growing tumor, and while it can spread rapidly to other parts of the brain, it typically doesn't spread to other organs in the body.

Lupiano said that thanks to a wealth of information gathered after World War II — and further augmented by what was learned in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the 1980s — there's enough to surmise that one source could be responsible for causing both the benign and malignant tumors observed in former Colonia High School Students. "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," he said.

Government reaction to the Colonia High School revelations

The news of so many people receiving similar diagnoses with a clear thread connecting them back to Colonia High School has been worrisome for residents, as well as government officials. According to NJ.com, the situation surrounding the school was brought up to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy while he was at an event in Ewing, New Jersey. The governor said that the state is concerned, though it's too early to know the root cause of the issue. "I know for sure that the tragedy that many lives are gone through has some nexus for them, to the Colonial high school, so that's something that we take very seriously," he said. "Again, too early to tell yet ... to draw any definitive conclusions."

Government agencies — both state and federal — have announced that they are aware of the issues. New Jersey's Departments of Health and Department of Environmental Protection are investigating, while the United States Environmental Protection Agency said that they are in contact with state departments regarding the matter (via Fox News). However, Lupiano, who brought the entire issue to light, said that the only government official to have contacted him directly is Woodbridge's mayor.

Could a former government plant be to blame?

Al Lupiano (above) has worked as an environmental scientist for over three decades. This has led him to suggest that perhaps the ground the school sits on is contaminated (via Fox News). According to NJ.com, Woodbridge Township recently put pen to paper on a contract for emergency air and land testing in light of the dozens of tumor and cancer diagnoses believed to be linked to the area.

Additionally, Lupiano has questioned whether a long-shuttered government plant could be the cause of the problem. The former Middlesex Sampling Plant is about a half-hour away from the school and was where materials used in the nuclear energy process, like uranium, first entered the country. From there, they were distributed to plants around the United States. The plant was in operation from 1940 to 1967, which — in another coincidence — is the same year Colonia High School opened.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Middlesex Sampling Plant was compliant with decontamination regulations of the era. However, it does note that some radioactive material was likely carried offsite by wind and rain.