An alarming number of cases of cancer are turning up among former students of Beverly Hills High School in California, in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the country. Many of its graduates became movie stars. People blame the cancer on pollution from oil rigs that are set up next to the school’s athletic fields. Famous environmentalist Erin Brockovich, who had a movie made about her, is part of the legal team that’s filing a suit to have the rigs removed. They say the cancer rate among ex-students is 20 to 30 times higher than the national average.

Mike Edwards of Venoco, the company that owns the rigs, says, “I think what the tests show is that the air quality is safe for the workers, safe for the neighborhood, safe for the school.”

Dr. Paolo Toniolo, a professor of environmental medicine, says, “The high number, if truly high, could be a pure coincidence, as cancers are rarely distributed uniformly in the population, but tend to lump together in time and space. Other factors should also be considered such as the frequency of acquired conditions causing immune deficiency, the use of illicit drugs, the use of steroid hormones or other performance-enhancing medications by athletes.”

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