Coincidence or Cluster?

Is it a cancer cluster or just coincidence?  That's a question some students and faculty at Nasatir Hall at San Diego State University are asking after four people have been diagnosed with brain cancer. 

Since 1993, one graduate student and three professors have developed brain cancer, according to some faculty members. All of the cancer patients spent long hours inside or near room 131 at Nasatir Hall. 

The building houses the Political Science Department.  The most recent case involved a graduate student who was also a teacher's aide for Professor Nancy Speckmann. 

"He was only 27 when he died, he didn't deserve a death like that," Speckmann said.  The graduate student died of brain cancer last October. 

After his death, faculty members realized two professors suffered from the same form of cancer, according to Speckmann.  A third professor is currently battling a different type of brain cancer. 

"The coincidence is high in a small hallway like this of numbers of people who've come up sick," Speckmann said. 

SDSU is aware of the situation according to media relations director Greg Block.  "In the summer of 2007, we did a review of the building and found no occupational health hazards," Block said. 

He also said the building does contain asbestos but  that  "asbestos is typically a respiratory problem and not brain cancer."

Some, including political science graduate student Jon-Patrick Allem, believe testing needs to be done to the room for other possible contaminants. 

"I probably would stay away from it until they illustrate that this is just a coincidence or random chance," said Allem.

There are no plans for any other testing according to Block.

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