Last updated at 3:02 PM on 27th January 2012
A mysterious disorder which exhibits symptoms similar to Tourette’s has affected more students at the same high school.
Earlier this month, it was reported that 12 female students, who all attend Le Roy High School, in New York, had been diagnosed and were being treated for the unexplained illness.
That number has now risen to 15 teenagers and they are all reportedly suffering from verbal outbursts and involuntary twitches.
Bizarrely, two students from a school 250 miles away have also reported similar symptoms.
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Fifteen out of the 17 go to Le Roy High School in Genesee County, New York State. Only one boy has been affected, the other 14 sufferers are girls.
The other two girls live in Corinth, Saratoga County, around 250 miles away.
One of the teenagers affected, 16-year-old Lori Brownell, posted a video on YouTube discussing how her symptoms started last August and looking for help from anyone who might explain her condition.
She has not been able to attend school since the tics started and the seizures were becoming more frequent.
Campaigning lawyer and environmental activist Erin Brockovich is believed to be now looking into the case. In 1996, Brockovich fought and won a mass lawsuit for an estimated $333 million dollars against Pacific Gas and Electric, who allegedly contaminated drinking water in the town of Hinkley, California.
Brockovich, who was the inspiration for the eponymous film starring Julia Roberts, has already started investigating, according to digg.com.
She has suggested that a chemical spill from a train derailment in the 1970s near the site of the school may be the cause. She has sent scientists to collect soil samples around the high school.
‘When I read reports like this that the New York Department of Health and state agencies were well-aware of the spill and you don’t do water testing or vapor extraction tests, you don’t have an all-clear,’ she said.
According to a 1999 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost one tonne of cyanide crystals spilled to the ground in the derailment, along with 130,000 litres of trichloroethene.
The crystals were removed but the trichloroethene was absorbed into the ground.
Brockovich said she has received more than one hundred emails about the school.
She said: ‘We don’t have all the answers, but we are suspicious. They have not ruled everything out yet. The community asked us to help, and this is what we do.’
School administrators would not disclose exactly what they think the cause is but have insisted it is not a case of mass hysteria and that none of the girls are making the illness or symptoms up.
Earlier this month, the school held a forum for concerned parents.
About 150 people attended, demanding to know what was wrong with the students.
Dr Greg Young, with the NYS Department of Health, said: ‘I can assure you these children have all been seen by professionals that have come up with answers and they are all being treated and they’re actually doing pretty well.’
Through tests over the last few months, they have been able to rule out a number of environmental factors, infections, illegal drugs and carbon monoxide poisoning.
But Brockovitch believes New York officials might have prematurely ruled out environmental reasons for the teens having neurological symptoms.
According to WGRZ.com, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has been consulted, along with Columbia University, as well as the Genesee County Health Department and the New York State Health Department.
Dr Young assured parents that these cases have been seen nationwide and they come and go in individuals.
Tourette’s syndrome affects the body’s brain and nervous system by causing tics – repeated, uncontrollable movements or involuntary vocal sounds.