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Chasing Toxic Unicorns In Woodbridge, New Jersey

Suspected School Cancer Cluster Attributed To “Radioactive Rock”

Woodbridge Was Named NJ’s “#1 Sustainable Town”

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Ask yourself: who benefits from diversion from multiple known sources of carcinogens in search of that Unicorn? 

This is a tragic story, so please take my headline in the absurdist spirit it is offered.

Watch the NJ Spotlight television story:

The absurdity – if it is not obvious after watching that story and glancing at the aerial photo above – is that the cause of a highly unusual suspected cluster of rare cancers is being attributed to a radioactive rock (based on Facebook “epidemiology”); thus “the Unicorn”.

The absurdity stems from the fact that the high school in question is literally immersed in a sea of carcinogens, a partial list of which would include:

(here’s the cancer risk map for benzene  – DEP is minimizing these risks by presenting them as single chemicals – directly in conflict with the legislative mandate in the “environmental justice” law which directed DEP to consider “cumulative impacts”).


To see a state map showing the spatial variation in modeled air concentrations (at the census-tract level) for one of the fourteen chemicals of concern, click on the chemical name:

Keep in mind, also, that the infamous childhood cancer cluster in Toms River was caused by an unregulated air pollutant.

Finally, NJ has some of the highest cancer rates in the world. The NJ Department of Health maintains and maps data from a statewide cancer registry.

The absurdity of it all is compounded by the fact that Woodbridge NJ was declared NJ.s “#1 Sustainable Town” by the sham corporate funded greenwashing group “Sustainable NJ”.

For those who prefer visual images (photos) to support a story, check this one out:


Ask yourself: who benefits from diversion of attention (e.g. critical media coverage, public outrage, stricter legislation and DEP regulation, lawsuits, etc) from multiple known sources of carcinogens in search of that Unicorn? 

[Update: 4/6/22 – Here’s background on the “Facebook epidemiologist”:

He has an environmental sciences degree from Rutgers with a minor in industrial hygiene safety engineering. He worked for nine years as a federal EPA emergency responder, cleaning up radioactive materials, chemical spills and biological agents.

For the past 18 years, he has worked for Marine Spill Response Corp, the nation’s largest oil spill cleanup company.

Longtime occupational exposure to carcinogens – blames high school rock.

BTW, DEP used to have a “medical surveillance program” to monitor DEP employees who were exposed at hazardous waste sites. I was part of the program from 1985 to early 1990’s, when it was eliminated by budget cuts.

[End Note:

It is no accident that so many NJ schools are sited next to highways and other totally inappropriate locations and that the petro-chemical industry (including Big Pharma) and toxic chemicals are severely under-regulated.

That is the result of ignorant and corrupt local and state officials and the greed of corporate polluters and the constellation of NJ’s development community (corporate land owners, builders, bankers, real estate, construction unions, etc).

Local officials site schools on the cheapest land, with no regard whatsoever for children’s health and well-being. Doing that saves taxpayers money and reserves more valuable land for development and the profits of developers (maybe they can build an elementary school on the highway median).

State officials abdicate any state responsibility to adopt land use and siting standards, health and school safety codes and stricter environmental regulation. This abdication is in response to the corrupt lobbying of many of these same corporate interests.

I worked on outing these scandals during the Corzine administration, when we documented that scores of “Abbott” schools (under NJ Supreme Court case law for minority/disadvantaged school districts) were to be sited on former, even active, toxic waste sites and that hundreds of millions of dollars of money that was supposed to benefit poor and black kids’ education was spent on cleaning up toxics school sites and consultants.

We could not get the legislature, Corzine DEP, SCC/SDA or media – or even the SCI investigators – to engage those corrupt abuses.

Just as bad, the only environmental group that would engage even remotely was the NJ Environment Federation. They crafted a Foundation driven narrow “school health” campaign that was limited to application of pesticides on school grounds and mold in buildings, ignoring virtually all other school health issues (land use, siting, air, drinking water, toxic sites, etc).

Nothing has changed since then (photo Trenton State House press conference, circa 2008)

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