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Age of Autism Series Tics and Toxins: LeRoy Officials Gave Little Attention to Schoolyard Before Ruling Out Environment


Note: Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill collaborated throughout much of 2012 on a series called, "Tics and Toxins," fueled by a mysterious illness that affected high school age girls in upstate New York. 

By Dan Olmsted

Health experts say they’ve eliminated every possible environmental and infectious cause for the “tics” afflicting 12 girls at LeRoy Junior/Senior High School in New York state. They’ve scoured the building for mold and carbon monoxide (nothing, they say), considered illnesses that might cause the symptom (none), even checked on vaccinations (not all girls had the same shot).

However thorough that workup may have been, it seems to have stopped at the schoolhouse Exit sign. Except for checking a log of pesticide spraying, there is no evidence they 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 a consulting firm looking into environmental factors, and therefore pesticides were ruled out. As best I can determine, that’s as far as it went.

That may not be far enough, given that parents and some of the students involved don’t accept the psychogenic diagnosis they have been given, and that a number of Web commentators familiar with the school have raised concerns about the grounds and how the relatively new building is sited.

Public health officials remain adamant that the case is closed.

"The LeRoy school is safe,” Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, replied Friday after I raised the issue in a telephone call. “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."

While the department has been careful for privacy reasons to avoid naming the illness, a doctor treating the girls has now gone public, with their permission, by calling it “conversion disorder.” Known less gingerly as mass hysteria, the diagnosis is rooted in 19th century Freudian psychology: Stress or trauma is subconsciously transformed into physical symptoms that can occur in several people at the same time. 

In part because the LeRoy diagnosis took months to emerge, and in part because many people – including parents and affected children – find conversion disorder a suspect explanation, multiple theories continue to arise. Those include concerns about the school building and grounds, expressed in online comments:

-- An environmental study “would be the first logical step, knowing that the school was built in a swamp and that a number of classrooms were underwater the first year as well as the gym you would think it would be the first thing the school would address- even if only to disprove it.”

-- “Girls started feeling sick in September, sounds like pesticide spraying At the end of summer before the fall to protect late crops.” (The girls’ symptoms began as early as September 10, according to published accounts.)

 -- “Have the doctors considered that the condition may be related to the school's having been built on swampy land? Water in the building continues to be a problem. A second story that should be pursued by the press and others is why this new school was built and why it was built on this particular piece of land.”

A quick look look at Google Earth (click the plus sign to see the school and grounds in detail) Leroy  shows the setting. The high school’s Web site  has an aerial photo that appears to show a large pool of standing water close to the school, with a rivulet coming even closer; it appears to be dry in the Google photo.

Farming, despite its idyllic image in American lore, is a highly chemical-intensive practice, and Western New York is no exception. For that and other reasons, it can be dangerous. In October, a few miles west of LeRoy in Genesee County, two people became ill when a pesticide being applied to a potato field wafted in their direction.  The substance was a toxic fumigant being injected into the soil in preparation for planting this year’s crop. Officials said humidity might have helped spread it.

Obviously, that incident had nothing to do with the LeRoy illnesses, but it does give a sense of time and place missing in accounts of the area, as well as suggesting weather is an unpredictable vector. 

But in such a scenario, why would only girls be affected? That's unclear, but there are a number of possibilities that environmental triggers could help explain. For instance, in some cases of mass illness in high schools, the victims were male football players and the problems were traced to toxins where they played. Being male was not a susceptibility factor, but it pointed to the exposure nonetheless. (In another case, marching band members suffered the same problem for the same reason.)

It is possible that more has been done to consider toxins outside the school building, but if so nothing has been done to communicate it to the national media.

In fact, opportunities continue to be missed. The two consultant reports and the school district’s official statement make no mention of looking for anything amiss outside the building itself ,except to note the water supply comes from neighboring Monroe County's public system. "No history of building water damage or site contamination was found," it states.

Neither the district nor the consulting firm it hired would talk to me Friday when I told them I was seeking information on whether risks outside the school building had been investigated.


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 Epidemic,” published by Thomas Dunne Books.


Autism mom

Another possible route of exposure is toxic clothing including sportswear. Clothing is often heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals, fungicides etc that can make people very sick...please read.

"Sports brands found using toxic chemicals in products"
By CAO YIN (China Daily)


"Consumers Beware: Toxins Lurking in Your Clothing!"


"Are your clothes making you sick?"
Friday, July 12, 2013 by: Elisha McFarland, Natural News


"Alaska Airlines flight attendants claim new uniforms make them ill' - NBC News report; Friday May 4, 2012 9:41 AM



The Superintendent and officials seem to have been dismissive of the orange-colored rust fungi in grass surrounding the school in news reports. I couldn't disagree more. Mold can make people sick, whether it's indoors or outside. My son has mold-exposure illness and a coupe times his symptoms (twitching) were triggered by mold outdoors. It's beyond ridiculous air sampling was used to test the visible mold outdoors. All they had to do was grab a chunk of the stuff and send it to an appropriate lab.


Correction -- Here is the mold testing from the first study, posted on the school website.

Indoor air sampling was only 5 minutes, and 10 minutes for outside on December 29, 2011. There are some problems with the methods used. Air sampling is one of the least accurate methods to test for mold; also the sampling time was inadequate (should have been 24 hours, 7 days/week). Also, sampling should have been done with the air disturbed (such as when occupied by students or blowing fans in the building while taking air samples). The report alludes to not smelling mold or seeing water damage and moisture during a "visual inspection" (meaning they walked through the building). Really? A scientific firm is going to rely on seeing moisture and smelling mold? What if the person has a poor sense of smell? What about using a moisture meter to determine humidity levels? There is no mention of lifting ceiling tiles to look for mold -- must have been too destructive. What about inspecting the INSIDE of the HVAC system to look for mold? Nope -- this team relied on school maintenance records. The team also failed to test for bacteria, endotoxins, and mycotoxins. ERMI testing and destructive methods would have been much more accurate than air sampling. Supposedly Leader reviewed this environmental report from December 2011 -- their report seems to be unavailable to the public. I don't recall the media reporting problems with the environmental tests done.


Were you able to access the report by Leader Professional Services that just HAD to be accurate because it was 6000 pages? Yet this study seems to be inaccessible to the public for review and critique. The first study, (partnership by Genesee Valley Educational Partnership & Office of Health-Safety-Risk Management Services) had some problems with it. It stressed that there was no visual mold or water damage observed and no destructive methods were used to investigate the mold. They took 10 minute air samples (pretty inadequate -- 24 hour samples/7days a week would have been more appropriate) and then said the results were pending and will be provided to the district within 5-7 days. So what were they? Let me guess -- Leader Professional did 20 minute air sampling? Here in Virginia, in 2007 "officials" declared William Byrd High School to be "safe" after environmental testing, despite the presence of toxic mold found in just 5 minutes or air sampling (indicative of a massive problem, according to a mold expert I consulted, since quite often a 5 minute test can miss a pervasive problem due to the sporadic release of mold spores into the air). The public was never informed about the toxic nature of the mold, and the school system refused to do more extensive testing. In 2012 and 2013, my son got sick with twitch-like symptoms, and was diagnosed with mold-exposure illness after attending William Byrd. Removing him from that school was the best decision I made. By the way, I've read that mold can cause demyelination (of nerves) -- which can cause serious neurological problems. Mold is not just sniffles and allergies. It can do much more. Trichothecenes, a poison produced by mold, has been used as a biological weapon ("Yellow Rain" in Cambodia).

Tami G

September is also when those H1N1 +3 other strains of influenza in the FLUMIST are shoved in kid's noses. Those vaccines shed for at least a month, and they can shed as far as a sneeze or cough travels- so it only takes 1 kid in a classroom to affect anyone with a weakened immune system, or someone who might be susceptible to autoimmune-mediated disorders.

Further, while those kids are shedding 4 strains of mutated flu viruses, they begin colonizing staphylococcus, plus 2 types of streptococcus pneumonia. Those bacteria make an impenetrable barrier- a one way street of shedding that causes them to spray droplets of strep on classmates. Mouse study showed the shedding continued for over a year. (indefinitely?).


Interesting, there are at least 3 fracking wells on the school property. Good question as to why the school was built there! 2 other wells appear to be just off the property. THere's also mixed ag around the school so could also be other agro-chemical sources. The 1970 RR TCE spill site is several miles away.

Kid's Illness timeline: http://www.shaneshirleysmith.com/2012/01/12-girls-sick-in-leroy-new-york-fall.html

Fracking Source: http://maps.fractracker.org/latest?webmap=b26c43968bf8435388cbd4b33f2c4b3d


If all the parents could get over the mentality that it will not happen to their child and walk out untill there is sure enough -- REASONABLE answers --- they would find the answer.


Dan - I thought many of the kids were later found to meet the symptoms criteria for PANDAS? I know at least one was treated at a CT doctor we see that also treats Lyme (I happened to over hear a patient conversation in the waiting room). It may have been strep (very contagious) and/or Lyme (not uncommon in NY) - my son has both in PA.

Patricia Boyle egland

any chance this district has newly installed turf football fields?

Jeannette Bishop

I don't know how feasible it might be, but I often think the Age of Hysteria chapter needs to be made more widely available to the public, health schools, etc. I think it would be beneficial for many to scrutinize some aspects at the root of the conversion disorder diagnosis.

It was pretty convenient for Freud that he was the one to diagnose hysteria in the patients he likely poisoned in the first place, and then to credit himself as helping them, or at least with divining the source of their "psychological" affliction(s) with his magnanimous intellect...I'm not in a very good mood this morning ... I hope these youth are doing better by now, hopefully not becoming perpetual slaves of the medical industrial complex...

Laura Hayes

Thanks for your tenacity in pursuing this outbreak, Dan. If only MSM writers had your inquisitiveness and determination to report the truth, imagine all they would uncover about the myriad "outbreaks" and "epidemics" in today's world! Grateful that you dare to tread where other bought-and-paid-for, cowardly journalists refuse to go.

I hope the parents of these girls will not give up their pursuit of truth regarding what so severely affected their previously-healthy daughters. We need them to keep up the fight for truth and the fight to expose cover-ups, and hopefully, they will work with you to have their stories told.


Disgusting performance by the "Public Health experts." I'd expect nothing more these days, sadly.


Perhaps it is time that the American people grow a back bone.
Answers would come very quick if every last parent kept their kid home untill there were answers.

I bet not one parent would do that because -for the worse reason of all: It is against the rules.

Home schooling is not that hard. You go to the board of education - tell the that is what you are going to do - and they are suppose to give you the curriculum of what to teach, what text books they suggest, and even includes the test, and the students are still suppose to get credit. The board does not want you to know this because they get paid by the state for each and every student attending each day.

Let a large percentage miss because of the flu and watch how quick they close down the schools - it is not because they are trying to stop the spread of disease. It is because it cuts money out of their pocket books -- and this way they can call for make-up days. Yes, make-up days are more about money than real concern that kids needs to get their education. We as a collective whole have power!

But we as a collective whole - won't. we are good citizens or bad ones - depending on how you look at it. I think the founding Fathers' opinion would be we are cowards, and even worse - uninformed. Gee was that not why they decided teach every one to read in the first place?


"Neither the district nor the consulting firm it hired would talk to me Friday when I told them I was seeking information on whether risks outside the school building had been investigated."

Reading Sharyl Attkisson's book. She relays how difficult it is to get information. For someone who has watched the fall of journalism, it's an eye opener to hear her perspective. What is the answer to government entities/institutions, employees of the public, who are secretive and refuse to answer to the public?

BoB Moffitt

"Neither the district nor the consulting firm it hired would talk to me Friday when I told them I was seeking information on whether risks outside the school building had been investigated."

It is beyond odd that both .. the district and the consulting firm .. would not clearly state they had "investigated" the potential risks "outside the school building". Surely, if they had "investigated" outside the school building risks .. they would have gladly provided that information.

I get very suspicious when "officials" .. be they school or public health .. fail to investigate all possible contributing factors to any mysterious outbreak .. if for no other reason than to "rule them out". Much like the "vaccinated v. unvaccinated" study that remains "undone".

I agree with Dan's observation:

"A second story that should be pursued by the press and others is why this new school was built and why it was built on this particular piece of land.”

I suspect the answer to these questions will provide an explanation for the failure to conduct a common sense investigation "outside the school building".

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