Home Health news Cancer on campus: Over 150 students and staff at North Carolina university are diagnosed with host of tumors – as officials find lecture halls and classrooms teeming with toxic chemicals

Cancer on campus: Over 150 students and staff at North Carolina university are diagnosed with host of tumors – as officials find lecture halls and classrooms teeming with toxic chemicals

by Editor

More than 150 students, staff and alumni have reportedly been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases linked to a university building teeming with toxins.    

Cases of lymphoma and thyroid and breast cancers have been reported among patients who spent time at Poe Hall, a class building at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

The building closed in November 2023 amid reports of exposure to concerning levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxic chemicals linked to cancer.

An investigation the month before found that PCB levels in five rooms were more than 38 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) building limit.

The university now faces lawsuits from some of the 152 patients who report falling sick with diseases linked to the toxins. 

Sarah Glad, who attended NC State from 2007 to 2013, died at age 35 from stage four breast cancer. 'I don’t care about money. I don’t care about compensation. I do care about being able to help other people,' her husband, Robbie Glad, told WRAL

Sarah Glad, who attended NC State from 2007 to 2013, died at age 35 from stage four breast cancer. ‘I don’t care about money. I don’t care about compensation. I do care about being able to help other people,’ her husband, Robbie Glad, told WRAL

Poe Hall, a class building at North Carolina State University, closed amid concerns of 'forever chemicals' polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been linked to cancer

Poe Hall, a class building at North Carolina State University, closed amid concerns of ‘forever chemicals’ polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been linked to cancer

More than 150 people have been diagnosed with cancer linked to Poe Hall, which held education and psychology classes for 4,000 students

More than 150 people have been diagnosed with cancer linked to Poe Hall, which held education and psychology classes for 4,000 students

Sarah Glad attended NC State from 2007 to 2013, where she received a bachelor’s and master’s degree. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and died from the condition in January at age 35.

‘I don’t care about money. I don’t care about compensation. I do care about being able to help other people,’ Mrs Glad’s husband, Robbie, told local news station WRAL.

WHAT ARE PCBS? 

PCBs are classified by the World Health Organization as known human carcinogens. Their manufacture was banned in the US and UK four decades ago.

They were mass produced by agricultural giant Monsanto for 42 years before the decision was made to stop doing so.

Studies have shown that PCBs, of which there are around 210 variations, can alter liver function can even affect reproductive system.

Newcastle University researchers in 2017 found ‘extraordinary’ levels of the pollutant in the Mariana trench – the deepest part of the ocean.

Around 1.3 million tons of PCBs were produced before they were banned – but some scientists estimate a third of this has leaked into the environment.

NC State alumna Christie Lewis, who attended the university from 2007 to 2012, said that she started having night sweats while she was taking classes in Poe Hall. ‘I could not figure out what was happening,’ she told Fox News Digital.

‘I was having to get up in the middle of night and change clothes completely. And then I would fall asleep. And I had to put a towel down.’

‘It honestly took me weeks to even tell my husband about them because I kept on forgetting about it because it was just in the middle of the night.’

Around 2011-2012, Ms Lewis was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. 

Months later, she discovered a lump on her neck, which turns out to be angosarcoma, a tumor found in the inner walls of blood and lymph vessels. 

Though she initially thought it was just circumstance, she became suspicious after reading reports about a potential link between Poe Hall and cancer cases. 

‘Maybe my body isn’t the problem. Maybe I was actually exposed to something that caused this. I don’t know, it definitely shook me a little bit,’ she said. 

Jennifer Walter, who attended the university from 2004 to 2007, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2017, followed by synovial sarcoma – which mainly attacks tissues near large joints like the knees – in 2022. 

‘There are such scary statistics that are tied with sarcoma. It’s just a lot more real,’ she told Fox News Digital.

‘They got it early, which I’m grateful for, but that fear never goes away. It’s something I’m going to have every day for the rest of my life.’

Poe Hall was constructed in 1971, a time when PCBs were more commonly used in industrial products. PCBs were banned in 1979, though they still remain in older buildings

Poe Hall was constructed in 1971, a time when PCBs were more commonly used in industrial products. PCBs were banned in 1979, though they still remain in older buildings

Ms Lewis said that she feels ‘violated’ because she thought she was ‘getting a good education…in a safe place’ before suddenly being ‘put in unsafe conditions.’

She also fears she may have passed on PCB exposure to her children.

‘It’s made me feel just really nervous,’ she said.  

Poe Hall, which held education and psychology classes for 4,000 students, was constructed in 1971, when PCBs were commonly used in industrial products like oils, insulators, and electric appliances such as TV sets, lighting, and refrigerators. 

PCBs, including those used to build Poe Hall, were largely mass produced by agricultural giant Monsanto until they were banned in 1979 amid concerns that they harmed humans and the environment. 

According to the EPA, conclusive evidence has found that PCBs can cause cancer in animals, as well as harm their immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.  

The agency classifies these chemicals as ‘probably carcinogenic’ to humans.

According to the CDC, exposure to PCBs can lead to increased enzymes linked to liver damage, skin lesions, and respiratory issues.

Animal studies have shown effects such as weight loss, fatty liver, thyroid damage, and cancer.  

NC State’s investigation into Poe Hall began in August 2023 when an employee issued a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL). 

The complaint ‘alleged health and/or safety hazards related to Poe Hall,’ according to the university’s updates page for the investigation. 

Health officials began sampling the seven-story building in October and found PCB levels more than 38 times the EPA’s safe limits for construction. 

The building officially closed in November, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) recommended the university request a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE).

An HHE is a federal investigation into a workplace to look for hazards such as carcinogens. 

However, the investigation was called off in January by NC State’s general counsel, according to the CDC. 

Dr Dallas Shi, an official for the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), wrote in a letter detailing the agency’s inability to move forward: ‘I explained that the North Carolina State University’s Office of General Counsel has asked us to stop our evaluation.’

‘The requestor expressed concerns over a lack of communication and general distrust in management’s actions. They also expressed concern about a lack of epidemiological analysis.’

‘I offered to relay these concerns to the North Carolina State University’s Office of General Counsel in a confidential manner.’

According to local news outlet WRAL, NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson denied the CDC’s report, with a lawyer writing: ‘At no time has NC State requested that NIOSH close any HHE (Health Hazard Evaluation), and I’m reaching out to respectfully request a retraction of any statement to the contrary.’

Several NC state employees and students reached out the NCDHHS urging the agency to investigate.

‘A wide-sweeping health assessment needs to be done to ensure students, staff, and faculty who worked and learned in Poe know how to manage their own health,’ a former graduate student with noncancerous health issues wrote in an email to authorities.

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