At least 11 teens in a small city near Los Angeles have developed brain tumors, and their parents suspect that the town may be to blame. In desperation, the community has reached out to consumer advocate Erin Brockovich for help.
Some of the teens and their parents told CBS that they believe their home of Moorpark, Calif. may be the site of an environmentally-caused cancer cluster.
Patrick and Mary Leyden lost their son Patrick, diagnosed with a brain tumor at 19, after a five-year battle, CBS reports in the video above.
About six months after Patrick was diagnosed, Breanna Pflaumer, now 22, was diagnosed at 14 years old with an inoperable tumor and given three months to live. Since then, she’s undergone 12 surgeries and years of treatments and is now paralyzed on her left side.
Her friend Austin Munoz was a football player at Moorpark High School when he was diagnosed at 16 years old with two brain tumors. He underwent months of chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and radiation treatments. Now, at 18, he’s in remission, but no longer plays football.
Julie Miller, a Moorpark resident who was also told her son had a brain tumor, said she thinks these cases are not a coincidence.
“I just collected names, numbers and addresses and they kind of were in the same proximity, even though Moorpark’s a small town,” Miller said to CBS.
The parents CBS interviewed said they know of seven other children in their community who are battling or have died from brain tumors.
Brockovich, known for helping obtain the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., says the problem is there’s no national database where people can report their diseases, cancers or brain tumors.
In 2011, Brockovich testified before a Senate environmental committee headed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) about the need for a national reporting system. Boxer has since co-authored Senate bill S-50 which, if passed, would require state and federal reporting and investigating of potential cancer clusters.
Since Brockovich’s first report, the number of communities reporting a possible cancer cluster has risen from 350 to 3,000.
In the meantime, Pflaumer is staying hopeful. “Keep fighting ’cause the silver lining is that day that will eventually come that you hear the words that you are cancer-free," she said to CBS. "That’s what I’m living for.”