9 investigates: Are cancer cases linked to Kissimmee school?



KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Cancer survivors reached out to 9 Investigates, worried that their diagnosis could be connected since they all worked at Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Kissimmee.

Pat Sham's breast cancer diagnosis last year came as a shock.  Sham said she doesn’t smoke or drink and she has no family history of the breast cancer, but she did teach at Pleasant Hill elementary, and she's convinced there's a connection.

Ginger Grazzini is sure of it, too. She worked at the school for 15 years and was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

“I fear for those children and the people that work there,” she said.

Both women and their friends became especially concerned when they started keeping a list of names and cancer cases. The list stands at 37 current and former Pleasant Hill employees.

“You hear I worked there, and I had cancer, or so and so worked there and had cancer,” said Sham.

The women got the attention of the school district, which spent $12,000 for environmental tests on the property. 

The school district insists its investigation was thorough, saying experts looked at everything from the water on the ground to the power lines above.

They also looked at the property's history. A horse track operated on the property from 1944 to the mid-1980s. And railroad tracks were in place since the 1940s, where operators were known to spray chemicals, including arsenic.

However, the report concluded there's "no reason to believe there are any environmental conditions evident at this school to cause an increased risk for cancer."

So, the school system has done testing, but is it enough?  The Osceola County Health Department believes so.  It had a state toxicologist review the report and determined further testing isn't warranted.

“There are multiple factors that can contribute to an increased risk,” said a health official.

The Health Department also told 9 Investigates almost 40 cases in 10 years doesn't prove there's a cancer cluster, but Sham and Grazzini worry the list will grow.

“I want don't want people to panic, but I want them to be aware there could be a health hazard,” said Sham.

The Health Department said one in three Americans are diagnosed with some form of cancer, another reason they don't consider the cases to be a "cancer cluster."