Erin Brockovich announced Tuesday that her investigation into a cluster of Tourette syndrome cases in LeRoy, New York is still in the early stages. The famous lawyer and environmental activist suspects that there may be an environmental reason for the cluster. But officials at a high school in LeRoy have been accused of not cooperating with the Brockovich investigation.
Since October, nearly two dozen people in LeRoy, New York began experiencing uncontrollable tics, seizures and outbursts, ABC News reported.
Brockovich came to the village of LeRoy after getting an email from a resident, CNN reported. Brockovich and her associate Bob Bowcock, an engineer, think that a 1970 train crash in the area that spilled cyanide and trichloroethylene may be causing the tics. They are now conducting independent tests to see if the chemicals were cleaned up properly after the wreck, CNN said.
But Brockovich stressed Tuesday that she can't say for sure whether the train wreck is in fact the cause of the cluster, because her investigation is still in the preliminary stages.
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The New York State Department of Health said that there is "no evidence" that the cluster is caused by an environmental factor. But the Environmental Protection Agency says that both acute and chronic exposure to Trichloroethylene can affect the central nervous system. "Liver, kidney, immunological, endocrine, and developmental effects have also been reported in humans" exposed to Trichloroethylene, the EPA says.
The Mayo Clinic says that researchers do not know what causes Tourette syndrome, but that it's "likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors."
When Bowcock went to LeRoy High School property Jan. 28 to collect soil, air and water samples, school officials asked him to leave, ABC reported.
"It's like [school officials] almost have a refusal to go out and test the soil," one mother told ABC.
Researchers believe that children and adolescents are more sensitive to toxic chemical exposure than adults.