Over the last six months, three teachers at Malibu High School in California have been treated for stage-one thyroid cancer. Those teachers say it’s no coincidence that other teachers are suffering hair loss, skin rashes, and respiratory problems in that same school. And now, they’re asking administrators to do something about it.
In a letter to school administrators, Malibu High School teachers requested testing of the facilities for air quality, asbestos, radioactivity levels, and water quality, among other things.
“These teachers believe their health has been adversely effected as a result of working in our particular buildings at Malibu High School,” the teachers wrote. “The alarming number of teachers being diagnosed with the same type of cancer, along with other conditions teachers continue to suffer [from], prompt us to make the following request: all teachers listed at the bottom of this letter request that each of our classrooms and the theater be tested for contaminants.”
After news of the teachers’ concerns went public, parents of Malibu High School students became concerned about the safety of the school and began doing a little research. In a letter sent on behalf of the Malibu High School Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), parents asked the Malibu school district superintendent to move classes to another location until the campus is proven to be free from environmental contaminants. According to the Malibu Times, parents also requested a town hall meeting to address the community’s health concerns.
"It's about the district providing clear and transparent information about what's going on and, in the meantime, keeping our children safe," said Seth Jacobson, a parent of a middle schooler in the district. "I would say there's a tremendous amount of uncertainty and fear that needs to be addressed.”
The Huffington Post reports that parents, teachers, and students may have reason to be alarmed. In 2010, a report showed that soil on Malibu High School’s campus allegedly contained levels of lead, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds. That soil, which covered about 1,017 yards, was thrown away in a “hazmat-style operation” in 2011.
"If this excavation took place in 2010, that's typically not enough time to get cancer underway. It's more like ten to 15 years," said Robert Giese, a director at the Environmental Cancer Research Center. "We know that the environment, in the broadest sense, is responsible for 60% to 90% of all cancers. But there's a huge issue of susceptibility."
Jerry Block, the school’s principal, told Los Angeles news station ABC 7 that no students have reported illness related to teachers’ health concerns. He also said the school would take appropriate action to ensure the campus is safe.
"Student and teacher safety is our number one concern, and although we don't have any reason to believe that there's any contamination at this school, and we believe the school is safe, we're going to take every precaution to make sure that is in fact the case," said Block.