Saturday, June 23, 2012

Report: N.Y. school with sick teens not toxic

ROCHESTER, N.Y.�Additional environmental testing at a Le Roy, N.Y., high school where a cluster of students had unusual neurological symptoms earlier this year has found no evidence of contaminants that could be linked to the facial tics and verbal outbursts.

In a community letter released Wednesday afternoon, Le Roy Central Schools Superintendent Kim Cox said, "I have excellent news. There are no adverse health impacts from contaminants in the air, soil or water in or around our high school campus."

The additional tests were done after an outcry over the appearance of unusual neurological symptoms among as many as 18 students in the Genesee County, N.Y., district's junior and senior high schools, which share a building.

A number of medical experts eventually said the most likely explanation for the cluster was conversion disorder, a stress-related, possibly neurological condition in which patients display symptoms of psychological origin. The condition often eases over time; as of a few months ago, some students were said to be showing improvement.

On that point, Cox's letter said only "the best news of all is that our students are doing well."

Concern about the cause of the health problems prompted one round of tests last fall that found no contaminants in the structure.

But when the cluster of illnesses drew national attention in January and the furor mounted in Le Roy, Cox said more comprehensive testing would be done to allay parents' and students' fears that an environmental contaminant might have triggered the symptoms.

The resulting study by Leader Professional Services of Perinton, N.Y., made public Wednesday, said nothing unexpected was found and nothing was present at levels that could cause harm.

There was no detection of the industrial solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, which some -- including environmental activist Erin Brockovich -- had worried might have migrated from a 1970 spill site three miles away. There also was no evidence of other contaminants such as mercury or formaldehyde and no unusual level of fungi in the schools' air.

Carbon monoxide levels were acceptable, although elevated carbon dioxide was noted. The latter is not a health concern, the report said.

Arsenic was found in soil near a school-owned natural gas well in a concentration slightly above New York state cleanup guidelines. The gas well, which is behind a chain-link fence, is one where a tank that holds brine from the well had previously overflowed. The study suggested the arsenic was naturally occurring.

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