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Tics and Toxins: Leroy School Site has History of Health, Water, Building Woes

Sick-buildingBy Dan Olmsted

The school where 12 girls developed tics attributed to "conversion disorder" has a history of water and structural problems, and an outbreak of rashes and sores occurred among students playing sports on land where the school is now sitting, according to a student who went there.

 "When we first started we couldn't go to gym class because the floor kept sinking and cracking," said the student, who attended the new LeRoy Junior/Senior High School in 2005, its first year of operation. She was one of several people who described the site as a "swamp." 

One year, students had to start a week late because of flooding inside the building, she said.

Before the current school -- which goes from eighth to twelfth grades -- was built, the site was used for student playing fields; the school itself was at another location. The new building sits directly atop those playing fields.

In the 1970s, students using those fields suffered from open sores that would not heal and rashes, said the former student, whose mother also went there and recalled the incident. The soil was tested, the cause was found, the students were treated and recovered. She did not know what the tests had shown.

This student expressed surprise that two consultant reports commissioned by the district, which found no problems with indoor air quality or toxins in the school building, stated: "No history of building water damage or site contamination was found."

She is not alone. On a Facebook site set up to support the students, one commenter wrote: "I read the environmental report and it seems like the testing wasn't very thorough. ... Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't the school partially underwater when it was first built? And how about soil testing. It seems like that would be included in thorough environmental testing? These girls deserve some answers. Praying for all of them and hoping we all get some answers soon."

Last week, I reported that except for checking a log of pesticide spraying, there is no evidence the consultants considered toxins in the schoolyard or on playing fields. Yet the symptoms occurred during mild weather when students would have been outside, and the school grounds are surrounded by intensively farmed land from which chemicals could conceivably have seeped or drifted.

The school is required to keep annual pesticide logs that were reviewed by the consulting firm, and therefore pesticides were ruled out. As best I could determine, that’s as far as it went.

The former student told me that some outside areas are used exclusively by girls, including a softball diamond.

Conversion disorder is a psychogenic diagnosis that means a psychological issue, such as stress or trauma, is converted unconsciously into physical symptoms. Several parents and affected students say they don’t accept that explanation. According to press reports, they have lost confidence in the Buffalo clinic that made the diagnosis and are now seeking other doctors to examine their children; the Buffalo clinic has reportedly now offered to conduct more tests.

One press report says the total number of students affected has reached 16 and includes one boy.

Neither the district nor the consulting firm it hired would talk to me about the issue.

On Friday, Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, told me, "The school is safe. The environment or an infection is not the cause of the students’ tics. There are many causes of tics-like symptoms. Stress can often worsen tic-like symptoms.

“All of the affected students have been evaluated and some have shown signs of improvement. Vaccines (Gardasil) have been ruled out."


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism and co-author, with Mark Blaxill, of "The Age of Autism -- Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Disorder." He has been an editor and reporter at USA Today and United Press International, where his investigation of severe side effects of an antimalaria drug given to U.S. soldiers won Best Wire Service Reporting from the National Mental Health Association.


Parkey Reynoso

As a parent of school aged children, I am very much worried reading this post. May the schools take enough safety measures for the kids.


From the tv coverage of these le Roy girls all round symptoms and background history, i would definitely say that a neurological rather than psychological problem fyi is underlying their affliction. A medical problem, not a psychiatric one. Can't say i am convinced about the adult female to be in the same category as the teen girls. Whilst not a physician, i have studied expression of some diseases. This misdiagnosis of what i believe has its origin with ingesting substance contaminated in the way and leading to the tourette like symptoms. Reminiscent of other tragic misdiagnosis such as Kuru disease which associated with poor
hygiene practices when it was in fact contracted by eating under cooked meat infected with a microvirus or similar. I suggest that use of anti biotics be discontinued after three courses, as it is unlikely to cure anything if no significant improvement can be noticed within the fortnight trial, then discontinue, and think of new ways to combat this tricky illness. Keep looking.

Ben P.

The EPA report indicates that the TCE contamination plume is East South-East from the spill site. The school is West, South-West of the spill site (totally OPPOSITE direction of the TCE plume)
You can reference the EPA report at the following URL:​region2/superfund/npl/​0203481c.pdf

Then, use Googlemaps to identify the location of the school in relation to the spill-site to understand that the location of the school and the TCE plume that originated from the spill are in the opposite direction.

HOWEVER, it would be worth investigating if the affected individuals live, or routinely play (on sports fields, etc.) that ARE within that East South-East spill site plume.


It is just your opinion, but I am so thankful that you "do" think there really is something wrong with the kids and they are not faking it.

Small number of kids???

Are you from a large city - were highschools filled with ???? 1000s because 12 kids in rural highschool - and the number has increased by the way --- if a very large number?


Jello, your response is nonsense, focusing on minute details instead of the facts. We've seen your sort before - no care for the forest, more interested in protecting those in charge of the trees. Amusing.


There's some minor inconsistencies with your article. First of all, the school houses grades seven through twelve, not eight. Secondly, the school opened in the 2003-2004 school year, not in 2005. Finally, the playing fields are all behind and to the left of the school's location, and always have been. The school is not sitting directly on top. While these aren't crucial to what the case is actually about, you may want to get all your facts straight on the school before you publish articles about it.

And just my opinion, I don't think the school is to blame for this at all, because if it was I find it very hard to believe that this is only happening to a small number of students. I think parents are using the school as a scapegoat with the hopes of getting some money out of a lawsuit. I don't doubt there's something wrong with these kids, but to put the blame on a school that has had tests run to show no environmental issues or issues inside the school itself is wrong.

Mandy Smith

My son has tic-like symptoms when he has strep. He never shows any signs of having strep, but when the tics return, I always ask the doctor to test for strep. Sure enough, strep ends up growing on the culture. It's called PANDAS, and may explain what these students are experiecing. Have the doctors tested for Strep?

Kevin Barry

These sick kids need to be treated for Trichloroethylene exposure. There was a train derailment in Le Roy in 1970 which spilled the chemical into the watershed. This would explain the sores from that time period. The historically heavy rains in the summer of 2011 (culminating with Hurricane Irene in August) likely dredged up some Tricholoethylene into drinking water.

The chemical is neurodegenerative and creates Parkinson's-like symptoms in rats.

J Neurochem. 2010 Feb;112(3):773-83. Epub 2009 Nov 17.

Trichloroethylene induces dopaminergic neurodegeneration in Fisher 344 rats.

"...Overall, our animal model exhibits some important features of Parkinsonism, and further supports that trichloroethylene may be an environmental risk factors for Parkinson's disease."

EPA Places Site in Genesee County on the Final Superfund National Priorities List
Release Date: 01/19/1999!OpenDocument&Start=2.7&Count=5&Expand=2.9

"NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed the hazardous waste site in LeRoy, New York on the final Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), the federal list of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites. ….. In 1970, the Lehigh Valley Road site was contaminated by a chemical spill from a train derailment, which caused contamination of soils and drinking water wells in the area.

Despite cleanup measures directed by the state and undertaken by the party responsible for the pollution immediately following the accident, the Lehigh Valley Road site still contains soils with elevated levels of primarily trichloroethylene (TCE) and a contaminated groundwater plume extending almost 4 miles east and southeast of the site."


I agree 100% with Eva.


Thanks Dan. As usual you get it right where others don't even bother to investigate beyond the press release. Now if we could only get one of the cable news channels to hire you, we could all watch the news again, and believe it, for a change.


Sores that won't heal? Sounds like Morgellon's to me.

Praying for those girls.

Eve Shipman

I think pesticides can cause what these kids have.
My cat in October 2011 licked the dogs flea medication off the back of her neck she convulsed,and seized at first, with great medical care from our vet hospital she is better but still has ticks.
We looked at the ingredients on the package on the sargent's flea medication and the same insecticide is used in the ant killer we spray around the grounds outside of our house. It can also be used to spray inside of the house to kill ants and spiders. If not used exactly to the labels directions it could hurt humans.
Maybe a farmer sprayed heavier amounts of pesticide in fields that drain to the swamp areas of the school.
Maybe the janitors used pesticide to kill bugs in a small room that they all use during the day.
Maybe pesticides were used in the cafeteria or bathroom.
Maybe they go to another school for sports that the grounds have too much pesticide.
Maybe the school grounds people are using to much pesticide.
Maybe the parents use pesticides as well in there home.
These are possibilities that could be looked into.
Good luck, I hope the kids will get better over time.

Dr. Cafo

You are all mistaken. These girls with tics have been here all along, it's just better diagnosis. The important thing is early detection. We don't know why it's important because we don't know what to do about it because we're afraid to look at what may have caused it. So the frigid, aging, freeway-close parents who let them watch too much TV need to just relax and embrace the tics, their anxiety is probably the root cause of it all in the first place. Every child is different. All the neurodiverse have decided to have tics this year. It's trendy. Don't try to change them. But if you do, try Risperdal. Don't do any lab testing, that's too "woo". Unlike "mass hysteria" which is completely sensible. Oh, wait, never mind. We've decided to redefine tics because it makes us feel important. Tics will now be called twitches. Under the new definitions, some who suffered from tics may no longer be considered as having twitches. There are now no longer 12 girls from LeRoy high who have tics. It's important for us to differentiate jerking motions because we are the experts on jerking. Any relation to Genesee County's endemic groundwater contamination with agricultural runoff is purely coincidental. Correlation does not equal causation.


In Kentucky it is allowed, but I do not know the laws in New York.
I do not know about large sewage plants for cities, but from family septic tanks, a tanker will pump it, take it to a desinated area were health department officials pump the tanker full of lime, let it sit for several weeks and put more lime in it before it is ready to go on pasture land only. Once it is spread on pasture land the cattle are not allowed to graze on it for a certain amount of time. It is sprayed on very fine too - so it is immediately soaked up by the grass.
There is no way that they would use it on ball fields though - just pasture land.


2 girls did NOT get guardisil... or so they say.

leroy ny

The two.girls from the Albany area who have now come down with the same simptoms stopped thru Leroy to eat....coincedence....I think not

Cheryl Wisecup

Response to Donna L. You can get Dr. Thrasher's contact information on his website

Cheryl Wisecup

Indoor air pollutants cause 50% of illnesses globally. For accurate information about the health effects of indoor contaminants and to see a list of hundreds of research papers, check out the Global Indoor Health Network at

Donna K

If they do all have school sports in common, consider that school athletes/cheerleaders are required to get full physicals with signed release from their physicians. That visit is also another opportunity to push the meningitis vaccine on these students. I know in our local school system there has been a public awareness campaign that tries to impress upon everyone that athletes are especially prone to meningitis (maybe because they use NSAIDS more than typical) so are frightened into believing that they absolutely need this vaccine. This vaccine is one of the newer vaccines that has been introduced in more recent years for use among this age group. I'm sure we've all seen the TV ads for this one as well. And it's not uncommon for a young girl to get a meningitis vaccine along with her Gardasil vaccine. Even so, though they could decline the Gardasil they might still accept the meningococcal vaccine at this age.


One thing these kids have in common is they played sports.

This is fromm the article on the girl from Albany area who developed tics.

"17-year-old Lori Brownell, of Corinth, which is 40 miles north of Albany, was a scholar athlete at the top of her class, a champion field hockey player."

Another athlete, Thera Mendez, one of the Leroy 12, is a cheerleader. Football players at high schools in Oregon and Texas have become mysterously become sick. Again they need to test the playing fields (and nearby fields) where these kids practice for toxic chemicals that may have been sprayed. Also astro turf known for containing toxins.


Is there a connection?: Albany area teen experiences similar symptoms as LeRoy girls

"A teen from the Albany area is exhibiting very similar “tics” as the girls from LeRoy. Lori Brownell, of Corinth, which is 40 miles north of Albany, was a scholar athlete at the top of her class, a champion field hockey player. Now, that’s all been taken away from her because of Tourette-like spasms."

Lori created a YouTube video in December. In it, she not only describes what she’s going through, but it’s obvious to see.

You can read the article and watch the video about Lori Brownell at this link:


"Vaccines have been ruled out?"

Yeah, where have we heard THAT before?


Does anyone know if they all got Gardisal? Or is that classified? Is there someplace on the Internet where some of the parents are speaking up?


Is sewage sludge...excuse me, Are biosolids spread on surrounding farmland?


"Conversion disorder.....several parents and affected students don't accept explanation.......they have lost confidence in the Buffalo clinic........seeking other doctors to examine their children.......Buffalo clinic now offered to conduct more tests.

It is clear that the parents are disillusioned by the Buffalo clinic's explanation and want to seek answers from another source.

So, the Buffalo clinic is doing a "back flip" and is promising to conduct more tests to regain the parents confidence.

"Power to those parents," for not accepting the first diagnosis!!!

"Think for yourselves and question authority!"

Elizabeth Gillespie


Perhaps these kids have had a toxic cocktail. It's all the exposures, pesticides, vaccines, mold, bacteria & mycotoxins from the wet building. On top of that their parents drive them around in vehicles that have mold, bacteria & mycotoxins in the HVAC systems of their cars. For years we tried helping our son get well from what we thought was ONLY a vaccine assault but he was also getting toxins from the faulty HVAC system in our vehicle. Our bodies can only deal with so many toxins - some of these kids don't have a chance.

Bob Moffitt has an excellent article explaining what may be happening in Le Roy .. and .. it ain't a "conversion disorder" ...

The article begins:

"With all the coverage of The Le Roy Twelve in the last 10 days, one thing has been a positive… at least from the standpoint of many in the “autism” community.

There has been greatly increased attention to PANDAS – Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus."


Has drug use been ruled out? There are scary stories out there of teens trying "bath salts" or something like that and becoming permanently brain damaged after the first try.

From the link: "Also worrisome is the fact that while all of the products "have the same basic chemical structure, small changes in the chemical composition give you different side effects, which clinicians then have to learn how to deal with."

I imagine they probably ruled this out pretty quickly with blood tests...but you never know.

Donna L.

Dr. Thrasher,
What would the approximate costs be for such testing? Thank you for sharing this information.

Historically wet August

"The former student told me that some outside areas are used exclusively by girls, including a softball diamond."

That, along with the description of sores and rashes after students played on the fields in past years, seems to point to the land around the school as having a high probability of being toxic.

They say the symptoms began in September? August was HISTORICALLY WET in nearby Albany:

THREE TIMES WETTER THAN AVERAGE! The only wetter August in Albany on record was in 1871. And these records go all the way back to 1826. (The reason for the historic rainfall this past August was hurricane Irene.)

Pesticides from nearby farms could have moved more easily with ground saturated - especially after a full summer of spraying.

Could it possibly be any more obvious what happened here?

Thanks Dan for staying on this. Conversion diagnosis? I'd like to see the "conversion" of employed experts to unemployed when the true cause of this illness is uncovered.

Jack Dwayne Thrasher, Ph.D.

I have had experiences with the N.Y. Department of Health. I do not trust their testing. Also, what must be considered is that school districts in this country are self-insured. Therefore, why not hire the least capable testing companies? Furthermore, detailed environmental tests must include spore counts for mold, culture and identification of bacteria and molds, microbial volatile organic compounds, testing for mycotoxins, DNA testing to determine species of molds and bacteria, particulate less than one micron, among a few other tests. If there is water intrusion signficant microbial contamination is most likely present. Finally, molds do produce mycotoxins that can cause tics. Jack Dwayne Thrasher, Ph.D.


Those poor kids. The whole "it's all in your head" story is so condescending. Ya we know something is wrong in the "head" but WHAT you morons?!!! These kids- all kids, deserve better.

The toxin sounds

Wonderful how the state's functionaries are forever poised to deny everything: doen't matter what is. Stuff the citizen!

Jenny Allan

Previous toxic waste/ contamination site?


In 1970s "The soil was tested, the cause was found, the students were treated and recovered. She did not know what the tests had shown."

What???? Do they have some kind of immunity from the freedom of information act?

Marie-Anne Denayer

Conversion reaction is a diagnosis of exclusion. Medical conditions have to be sought and treated before giving the patient a psychosomatic disorder. The common thread is the school the affected kids attend. Test the kids for heavy metals. As a neurologist I would assume that the afflicted kids underwent a complete work-up including Brain MRI???

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