Teacher at Lake Forest East Elementary begs for more testing after cancer diagnosis

School officials said further testing regarding a possible cancer cluster found at Lake Forest East Elementary School in Frederica was "unlikely to be beneficial" in 2014. File Photo/Logan Anderson

School officials said further testing regarding a possible cancer cluster found at Lake Forest East Elementary School in Frederica was “unlikely to be beneficial” in 2014.
File Photo/Logan Anderson

FREDERICA – School officials are again discussing a possible cancer cluster at Lake Forest East after hearing of another staffer diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lake Forest School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda Wynder said she plans to contact the company that formerly conducted an inquiry into the issue following a public comment made by a teacher of the Frederica facility who came forward during the meeting to “beg for more testing at East.”

“Last Friday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s hard when you’re told that you have cancer and to know that I have a 19-year-old and a 9-year-old and the journey that we will have to go through. Everyone diagnosed along one hallway? We kind of feel like nothing is being done. It would be nice to know that something is being done,” she pleaded to board members during the Thursday night board meeting.

District officials previously contracted with Batta Environmental Associates, Inc. of Newark in 2014 to conduct an investigation due to the insistence of staff and community members.

Dr. Wynder, who was not the superintendent in 2014, said she needs to review the resulting report and consult with Building and Grounds Supervisor Karl Stahre III and the company before any decision is made to further testing or not.

“Our plan of action is to look at the report and be able to ask questions to the company and discuss next steps,” Dr. Wynder said. “Then from there, we want to contact the staff at East first.”

District officials and the investigating company said further inquiries into the matter was “unlikely to be beneficial” back in 2014 after Batta Environmental Associates, Inc. sent 43 questionnaires to staff members.

Following the initial investigation, then-superintendent Dr. Jason Conway said, “The investigation was designed and conducted to gain a better understanding of the possible factors relating to incidences of cancer within the Lake Forest East Elementary School. Staff members completed a questionnaire, which contained questions about their general health, lifestyles, cancer risk factors, health screening practices and diagnosis.”

The investigation yielded four self-reported cases of cancer during the inquiry, however, district officials at the time said there were 11 known cases of cancer in staff and students at Lake Forest East Elementary School within the past 20 years.

Of the four self-reported cases, three involved breast cancer while one involved cervical cancer.

“The cancer cases – breast cancer in particular – at the school were not considered unusual cancers or cancers with a known, rare cause,” according to the Batta Environmental Associates Inc. report. “One in eight women develop breast cancer according to the latest statistical data reported, so this cluster of breast cancer is not unusual given that three out the 43 teachers surveyed had breast cancer.”

The report went on to add, “The survey results do suggest that there is an overall concern about the indoor quality in the school as well as potential exposures from pesticides used inside the school for rodents, agricultural spraying on farmland around the school and potential exposure from emissions from a near-by chemical plant. Both the indoor air quality and fugitive emissions from agricultural sprays and industrial processes may add to the daily stress, however in the absence of any abnormalities or any additional information, further investigation is unlikely to be beneficial.”

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