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Erin Brockovich: chemical spill answer to twitching NY teens – ENVIRONMENTAL activist Erin Brockovich believes that a 1970s chemical spill may be behind a mysterious affliction causing vocal and physical tics among teens in New York state.

Brockovich, made famous when she was played by Julia Roberts in the eponymous movie released in 2000 (above), has pointed to a train derailment which spilt the chemicals cyanide and trichloroethylene as a possible cause of the illnesses.

The train derailed within three miles of Le Roy High School, where 15 of the 18 affected teens study.

Of the two chemicals spilled, it’s the trichloroethylene that Brockovich and her team have pegged as the prime suspect. A US National Toxicology Program report about the chemical said it’s “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” while studies have suggested it may cause tumours and Parkinson’s disease.

As reported here last week by Charles Laurence, doctors treating the teens have ruled out any straightforward infections or diseases being the cause of their symptoms. Neurologist Dr Lazlo Mechtler has made a case for the kids – all girls bar one boy – suffering conversion disorder, a psychological problem which can present physical symptoms like twitches and tics.

Brockovich, however, feels that the smoking gun lies with trichloroethylene’s links with Parkinson’s. Ms Brockovich, quoted by Gizmodo, said: “When I read reports like this – that the New York Department of Health and state agencies were well aware of the spill – and you don’t do water testing or vapour extraction tests, you don’t have an all-clear.” As much as 35,000 gallons of the chemical were spilt in the train crash.

The mysterious malady first surfaced last August when 16-year-old Lori Brownell fainted and then began to have twitches that have gradually worsened over time. Lori was initially diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, but doctors have had to rethink that diagnosis since the other 17 teens have developed the same symptoms over the course of the last month.

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