Cancer concerns connected to Western New York elementary school

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 18:37:30-05

ALBION, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Albion Teachers Association is raising concern after finding out 22 current and former staff members at Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 20 years.

The union learned of the situation recently and brought the information to the board of education Monday. Teachers want to see water and air quality tests done at the school to rule out any environmental factors.

According to Superintendent Michael Bonnewell, the medical director serving the district says there has been no evidence linking environmental factors to breast cancer. Nevertheless, he has reached out to the New York State Department of Health, Orleans County Health Department and the Workplace Health and Safety Programs at Cornell University for independent, expert opinions.

"We await guidance from these independent experts to help us in our continuing commitment to ensure the well being of our students and staff," Bonnewell said.

"Breast cancer is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common," Christy Widman explained. She is the assistant director for the office of community outreach and engagement at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. "While more people are living with it and beating the breast cancer, it is still something that occurs pretty routinely."

Widman is not studying this case in Albion specifically, but researches cases like this at the center. She also points out no evidence links breast cancer to environmental causes, but says it is a popular area in current research.

"To date, I'm not aware of any concrete evidence that would link environmental causes to breast cancer," she said. "There are a lot of group that are looking at things, fracking, exposure to pesticides and plastics in our environment. These sorts of things."