Serious Chemical Contamination Leaves School District in Chaos

While kids and parents across much of the U.S. are deciding how they can get the most out of summer vacation, there’s a boatload of parents in Paramus, New Jersey who are having their children's blood tested for exposure to dangerous pesticides at West Brook Middle School. And that’s not all, because nearly the entire teaching staff has hired an attorney, blaming autoimmune diseases and other illnesses on the contamination. As one parent put it, "It kind of creeps me out because we just don't know for sure if our kids are safe''. It turns out that she and other parents fear their kid's seizures, aching joints and frequent colds could be linked to soil tainted with pesticides at the school. And while the community is on edge, science isn't providing many answers. It turns out that researchers haven't studied the effects of pesticides on humans, only on animals, and there’s a huge gap in the understanding of the safety of thousands of chemicals we live with every day according to experts. As Dr. Gina Solomon, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council put it, "It's a shocking state of affairs when even the best-tested chemicals out there haven't been tested in a way that we can tell a community what this kind of exposure can do."

Now the pesticides found in the soil at West Brook were actually banned by the federal government two decades ago because of the danger they pose, as chlordane, dieldrin and aldrin are neurotoxins, working on humans as they do on bugs by lining up to attack the central nervous system. Unfortunately the lack of research means doctors and scientists can give parents and teachers only vague information about the long-term risks. That leaves attorneys for teachers and families in the district lining up to duke it out with the district itself over the contamination. And with some of them cold-calling every family in the district to line up cases, you can be certain this will be a fight to the finish. Ultimately, the district will likely have to seek a settlement at some point with this boatload of litigants, an economically draining process for everyone involved that will leave the school district strapped for cash and could also leave home prices in the toilet. And that’s a result that will be good for no one, affected by the contamination or not.


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