Could industries be at fault for the unusual appearance of glioblastoma?

A cover photo used for an article informing the relocation of a waste incinerator site in Allentown, PA.


A cover photo used for an article informing the relocation of a waste incinerator site in Allentown, PA.

Some weeks ago, I was messing around with the Weather app on my phone as one does on occasion. After checking the temperatures in cities I’ve never heard of or cared about, curiosity led me to check the different air qualities around the globe, and the map was terrifying in one specific area.

Allentown, Pennsylvania was a hot spot for horrible air quality; a glowing violet that signifies dangerous levels of pollution that is harmful to its residents within the circle. In comparison, Los Angeles, California—infamous for many things, including the cloud of grime that encloses the valley—had a yellow glow: an alright air quality level. 

On this map, green and yellow areas are safe and tolerable. Orange is a warning, and red areas are a true red flag for civilians, but never should one area be the purple Allentown was that day.

Historically, the industrious Allentown is an epicenter for business, generating $7 billion in economic output. An hour and a half away, Colonia High School stands, and from Allentown to Philadelphia, the route is even shorter. 

The dangerous air quality from factories not only in Allentown but in Pennsylvania, in general, creates a slew of environmental issues. Burning fossil fuels in mass amounts is terrible for humans, but what does an industrious city have to do with Philadelphia and a high school? 

Colonia is located in New Jersey, but the state has nothing to do with the unmerciful effects that accompany pollution, fossil fuels, and other lethal chemicals released into our air during production. In the recent decades, roughly 117 diagnoses of a rare form of brain cancer, glioblastoma, have been linked to that one high school. 

Causes have not yet been linked to the bizarre cases of their alumni and staff, but an hour away from Colonia is Philadelphia, and their MLB team, the Philadelphia Phillies, are not in the clear either.

91% of the world’s population lives in an area unsafe in terms of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines.

— Source: World Health Organization

Six players for the Phillies have been diagnosed with glioblastoma, starting with Ken Brett in 2003. Glioblastoma is considered one of the most aggressive forms of malignant brain cancers, and 200,000 people on average die of this cancer per year—9,000 of those are deaths within US borders. 

Researchers, epidemiologists, and MLB officials have since stated the causes for this are within the workplace and “unpredictable,” some having said that it’s a mere coincidence. 

From an environmental standpoint, there are concerning factors that aren’t gaining too much attention. In the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, the true story ultimately leads to Brockovich, the main character of the film, finding records of contaminated drinking water in Hinkley, California. In their water source, chromium 6 was discovered—a dangerous chemical used to strengthen metal/prolong the inevitability of rust. Chromium 6 can be emitted through the air as well, and the large factories located in Allentown could be giving off this specific chemical or other threatening ones.

7 million deaths a year are caused by air pollution.

— Source: World Health Organization

While Allentown has poor air quality due to production pollution, the link here is simply the air. Industries aren’t looking at whether or not their waste is safe, dangerous, or deadly. Capitalistic societies like the US only work with constant money flow, but big corporations ignore the safety of locals and residents from miles, towns, and states away. 

In the film, Brockovich faces Pacific Gas & Electric to combat the issue of this small town near the Mojave Desert, but issues appear, and ultimately, she approaches the end of her journey with success. The informational, yet slightly controversial movie shows light on the ongoing ignorance companies have for the environment.

Ambient air pollution accounts for 4.2 million deaths each year.

— Source: World Health Organization

After watching the film, I can’t help but wonder if a similar occurrence is happening with Colonia High School and the Phillies. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is not far from all of this, and its specialty is steel making—hence the name for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Given the location and close proximity to one another, I can’t help but theorize the possibilities these inhumane air conditions have on the residents. 

As of April 2022, T+M Associates have been contracted by the township to test radiation, according to a local article written by ABC11. Environmentalists, too, are asserting their power by collecting samples of the air at Colonia High School to later test for toxins. If anything comes of this case, the MLB is most likely to not go any further than covering it up with loose statements. 

The connection between these three locations is astonishing, and the environment is still the dictator of how we develop and live our lives. There should never be purple dots over cities, nor should there be this many cases of glioblastoma within a 100-mile radius of each other.

Sadly, there are too many variables, loose ends, and greedy companies to begin a full investigation of the potential causes of the chemicals being released into the air.