Manatee Co. commissioners want to know if local high school led to high cancer rates

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Manatee County commissioners want to get to the bottom of a strange and deadly trend. They want to know why hundreds of alumni from the old Bayshore High School have developed cancer. They’re trying to get the word out to save lives.

Since our story aired on Wednesday, even more people have come forward, saying possible soil contamination there may have led to cancer.

“All of our lives were just completely turned upside down,” recalls Mallory Mannion.

Her father, Lawrence, was a hardworking engineer who strived to create a better life for his children. But, when he was 47, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of colon cancer. He died at the age of 49.

“My dad worked really, really hard to ensure that his family and his kids and his grandkids would have a better life than he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t even get to enjoy anything he worked hard for,” Mannion said through tears.

Before his death, Lawrence was tested and learned his cancer was not hereditary. Instead, it developed from environmental causes.

“We’re absolutely convinced, like I’m 100 percent sure, that he got it from the old Bayshore High School when he went to school there,” said Mannion.

His family believes it was contaminated water at the old Bayshore High School. The school was torn down in 1999, but officials say for decades, the school relied on well water while diesel tanks were buried underground.

A group of Bayshore Alumni monitor the cancer trend through a Facebook page.

Over the years, they’ve documented 422 cases of cancer or rare diseases among alumni or children.

This includes 160 alumni with cancer, 90 alumni cancer deaths, 103 alumni with autoimmune diseases and 69 children born to alumni with birth defects.

A doctor analyzed some of the data and learned Bayshore High School alumni face higher than average rates of breast cancer, leukemia, brain cancer, and lymphoma.

County commissioners are now getting involved.

“This is not our land, this is totally the school’s property, but Manatee County, we’re responsible for the health and safety of our citizens and that’s where I think we need to be involved,” said Commissioner Carol Whitmore.

County commissioners will soon meet with the school board to discuss this issue. Whitmore adds she’s hoping soon to get state lawmakers involved, so they can do some more thorough testing in the area.

Tests done in previous years have turned up empty, so Whitmore is hoping there can finally be some answers.

“I’m interested to see the actual facts and the science and if there is anything, we need to take some action,” said Whitmore.

Mannion is happy that commissioners are getting involved. This trend did not solely impact her father alone. Her father has four siblings who also developed cancer, and they gave birth to children with birth defects.

Mannion urges other alumni to monitor their health before it’s too late.

“What’s scary to think, the numbers we have right now, in the hundreds, aren’t even everybody. There could be hundreds more who aren’t even aware of what’s going on,” said Mannion.

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