BRADENTON (CBSMiami) – The state’s health department is looking into claims that a school in Bradenton, which was torn down years ago, made hundreds of people sick from diseases like cancer.
Alumni and faculty of the school affected by cancer have been asked to submit their health records. So far, the department says there is “no evidence Bayshore High School is the source of any disease clusters.”
“I can’t look at a yearbook. I don’t see classmates, I see victims,” said Cheryl Jozsa who graduated from Bayshore in 1981, two years after her old sister Terri.
In 1991, doctors diagnosed Terri with a rare type of leukemia. She did six months later. A few years after her sister’s death, Jozsa learned another Bayshore classmate had also died of leukemia. She said a light went off in her head.
“You would talk to this person and they would say so and so’s sister died of leukemia. The numbers I have are from word of mouth. People speaking to me, people writing to me,” she said.
Jozsa believes the cases at Bayshore constitute a cancer cluster.
“Of my sister’s class of 235, we have four leukemia’s recorded and three of those have passed away,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control defines a cancer cluster as a greater than expected number of cancer cases that occur within a group of people in a geographic area over a period of time.
Over the last 13 years, Jozsa says she has tracked nearly 500 cases which link Bayshore alumni and employees to cancer, autoimmune diseases or children with birth defects.
Paul Peduzzi was in Jozsa’s class. Doctors found a tumor pressing on his spine in April and diagnosed him with hairy cell leukemia.
“I was in agriculture class and I, we grew strawberries out in the big field. I ate those strawberries, played in the field. I think there’s a good chance it could’ve come from something under the ground,” he said.
However, years of soil and groundwater testing on the school property have found “no significant contamination,” according to the health department.
Manatee County and its School Board have asked the health department to survey the alumni and staff to determine whether a cluster exists.
“The facts at this point indicate over the last 15 years that location has been tested numerous times and each time it comes back with a negative indication related to a possible cancer cluster,” said the district’s school Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene.
Officials say there was contamination a mile away at an old machine shop, but the county believes it did not impact the school.
The health department will stop collecting medical information at the end of February. The records will then be sent to the University of Miami. Results are expected to be released six months later.