Jan 30, 2012 1 Comment ›› Pat Dollard
Jan. 29 update: Famed environmental activist Erin Brokovich met resistance as her team tried to test the area around an upstate New York school for clues to a case involving more than a dozen teens plagued by mysterious Tourette’s-like symptoms and seizures.
At the request of local parents, Brokovich sent a team to LeRoy High School Saturday to investigate possible environmental causes for the illness that has caused a group of girls to develop tics and involuntary verbal outbursts. One neurologist who has seen most of the affected girls has diagnosed their illness as psychological in origin, but some parents and members of the community have disputed that diagnosis.
The State Health Department has tested the school and ruled out environmental factors. But Brockovich plans to do more testing near the school in LeRoy, N.Y.
Brockovich told USA TODAY Friday that she is looking into a 1970 train accident that spilled cyanide and an industrial solvent called trichloroethene close to the site of the school.
Bob Bowcock, a member of Brokovich’s team, came to LeRoy from California, NBC News reported.
Bowcock looked at ground water and soil at a nearby park for anything out of the ordinary. “I’m just looking at the environment. I’m trying to see where things drain to. What types of soils they are,” Bowcock told NBC News.
However, the school placed locks on all the entrances to the sports field, NBC’s Rochester, NY, station reported Saturday. Local police and a school security guard initially refused to allow the Brokovich crew on school grounds until the school superintendent and a district spokesman arrived. Officials agreed to let parents, Bowcock and his team walk the grounds, without media, as long as they didn’t take any samples.
(CBS News) In a small upstate New York town, a group of local high school girls are making national headlines for what many are calling a medical mystery.
Thera Sanchez and Lydia Parker are only two of more than a dozen girls who have been experiencing symptoms of uncontrollable tics and verbal outbursts.
Thera’s mom told CNN she brought her daughter to the hospital after she started involuntarily ticking when she woke up from an afternoon nap. The nurse let her know she wasn’t alone.
“She had said, ‘not to alarm you, but someone has to contact someone because you are the fourth girl to come in with this,'” her mother told CNN.
Since then, the numbers have grown to 15 – and all of them, except one, are girls. Naturally, concerned parents are looking for answers.
“These kids are just totally normal and then next thing you know they go blah, their arms are swinging and they can’t control themselves,” says James Dupont, whose daughter Brook has also been affected.
Over the weekend the media craze surrounding the mystery grew when famous environmental activist Erin Brockovich sent her investigators to look for possible environmental causes.
The team tested local ground water samples for chemicals that they believe may be left over from a 1970 train derailment that spilled thousands of gallons of industrial solvent just north of the school.
“So far we haven’t seen anything that is obvious or just stands out,” Brockovich’s investigator Bob Bowcock tells CBS News. “It doesn’t mean something won’t come before us.”
But both school and state health officials have already concluded a three-month investigation that determined “no environmental or infectious agents” could have caused the students’ tics.
Instead, local doctors who have examined 11 of the teens have determined the girls have a stress-induced “conversion disorder,” which “starts as a mental or emotional crisis – a scary or stressful incident of some kind – and converts to a physical problem.”
But some parents refuse to accept that the causes are purely psychological.
“Even if it was Conversion Disorder, and that was the symptoms of it, we don’t know what caused it,” says James Dupont, whose daughter Brook has suffered from a tic.
In the minds of parents like Dupont, the small town medical mystery remains very much unsolved.
However, Dr. Jennifer McVige, a pediatric neurologist who treated many of the girls after they were referred to her by their normal physicians, doubts the train wreck has anything to do with the symptoms displayed by the girls in upstate New York now.
McVige has also said some form of Conversion Disorder is most likely to blame – and she says anything from a divorce in the family, to the normal stresses of teenage life can cause the condition.