In the small town of Le Roy, N.Y., teenagers are suffering from Tourette’s-like symptoms from an unknown cause – possibly related to a 40-year-old chemical spill.
The teens were diagnosed by a local Le Roy doctor with mass psychogenic illness, or, mass hysteria, a rare disease that occurs during periods of stress that is displayed through physical ailments.
A three-month long investigation from state and local health officials ruled out environmental and infectious agents. A physician from the New York Department of Health told NBC News there was no evidence of any environmental factor and ruled out infection or communicable disease.
Another doctor from the DENT Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. told CBS News his diagnosis is conversion disorder, which displays symptoms without a cause. So, the cause must be psychological or neurological, according to physicians.
Are mass hysteria or conversion disorder to blame, or could the cause of it all be related to an old chemical spill? Environmental activist Erin Brockovich stepped in to research whether or not a 1970 toxic chemical spill is to blame for the uncontrollable tics, fainting spells and verbal outbursts amongst a group of 15 teenagers in Upstate New York.
Brockovich has questions related to a 1970 chemical spill that occurred a mere three miles away from Le Roy Central High School where the teens attend school. Brockovich states, “There are other people coming out reporting that they lived close to the spill site; that their family is also experiencing health problems.” Brockovich sent her team of investigators to test local water for chemicals that could be linked to the 1970 spill. So far Brockovich’s team has yet to conclude the investigation and have not found anything to link the teen twitching to the spill.
Here at Environmental Protection Online, we know that groundwater contamination can remain for decades and cause harmful effects, so the concern is justified. In the meantime, more Tourette’s-like cases continue and the psychological cause is understandably a diagnosis that’s hard to swallow.