Brockovich, Gibbs Question Hysteria Claim

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LEROY, N.Y., Jan. 27 (UPI) — Activists Erin Brockovich and Lois Gibbs say New York officials might have prematurely ruled out environmental reasons for teens having neurological symptoms.

Brockovich, whose California water-contamination case became a motion picture starring Julia Roberts, and Lois Gibbs, who led the homeowners at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., have been talking to parents of some of the 15 teens who have developed involuntary twitches and verbal outbursts, the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Fifteen LeRoy Junior-Senior High School students exhibit degrees of involuntary twitches and verbal outbursts not unlike Tourette’s syndrome. Some reported fainting and seizures and, until recently, all were girls, but a male has now made the same complaints, the Chronicle said.

Neurologists in Buffalo, N.Y., examined some of the teens this month and concluded the teens suffer from a psychological disorder causing physical symptoms that spread unconsciously through the student body at the school.

Jeffrey Hammond of the New York state department of health said state officials looked into the cluster, but were not speculating about the cause. Hammond confirmed most of the girls did not get the Human Papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil and said Buffalo physicians ruled out infections in the patients they saw.

Hammond said indoor air testing of the school district found no evidence of toxic-chemical contamination, a lack of fresh air, mold or other air problems.

The environmental groups said more investigation was needed to rule out environmental contamination, particularly in two areas. Rumors persist that the school sits atop rock and soil trucked in from a part of Leroy after of a huge spill of the toxic solvent trichloroethylene — used as an industrial solvent — from a 1970 train derailment. The chemical was banned in many countries in the 1970s.

More recently, five natural gas wells using hydraulic fracturing were opened in 2000s. The wells, owned by the school district, ring the junior-senior high school building.

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