Testing firm hopes to get to bottom of Huntersville eye cancer cluster

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Environmental testing at Hopewell High School will begin next week.

This comes after years of Channel 9 investigations and nervous parents expressing concern about a possible rare eye cancer cluster.

There have been at least 12 people diagnosed with ocular melanoma in Huntersville.

Ocular melanoma is a rare eye cancer that impacts 5 out of a million people.

To make things more complex, all 12 people diagnosed with ocular melanoma either attended Hopewell High School or live or work nearby.

In July 2014, Sue and Kenny Colbert came to Channel 9 about the problem. They called for testing to happen at Hopewell High School after her daughter and four other women were diagnosed with ocular melanoma. Their daughter, Kenan Colbert, died in May 2014.

Channel 9 kept investigating, and the Colbert family kept pushing for answers. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have now hired an independent firm to conduct testing at the high school.

CMS officials tell Channel 9 Charlotte-based Hart Hickman will conduct the environmental tests and determine if there is a presence of any hazardous substances.

Sources tell Channel 9 the firm will conduct tests for six weeks. The firm will be checking for toxic materials and visible soil contamination. Crews will also be looking at electric transformer equipment and past land uses.

The company is also going to look for asbestos, Chinese drywall and lead-based paint in the school. As part of the tests, historical documents will also be reviewed.

Once the data is collected, it will be passed to scientists who are studying the disease. Doctors Channel 9 spoke with say it will be very difficult to pinpoint a common causing factor, but conducting environmental tests will help.

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