Bayshore High School Cancer Cluster Assessment | Press Release


Bradenton, Florida December 4, 2020
Cheryl Jozsa with Fight for Zero 

The Department of Health (DOH) Issues Long-Awaited Bayshore High School Cancer Cluster Assessment

The Health Department issued its “Bayshore Cancer Assessment” Thursday on its research into classmates’ reports of a higher number of cancer cases at Bayshore High School.
The Florida Department of Health says there’s no evidence of a cancer cluster among those who attended or worked at Bayshore High School from 1985-2018. The final report released by the Florida Department of Health showed that:
“Cancer data from the FCDS and population data from the United States (U.S.) Census were used to calculate a standardized incidence ratio (SIR) respectively for each cancer type, allowing comparisons between the number of observed cases versus the number of expected cases to determine if the occurrence of these cancer types are higher or lower than one would expect given the population size and demographics of the local area in question,  the final report reads. For all three time periods studied, the final report suggests, the number of observed cases versus expected cases was significantly lower in many instances with regard to each type of cancer.”
The study was requested by Manatee County Commissioners and Manatee County School Board Members during a May 2017 joint town hall meeting regarding cancer and health-related concerns of former Bayshore High School alumni and employees.
Data were collected using patient listing forms from the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County between December 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018. 
Data crowdsourced by Fight For Zero West Coast Director Cheryl Jozsa included decades of Bayshore alumni dating back to 1962. The class of 1979 had 256 students with 4 leukemia cases, 3 of which are deceased. According to the National Cancer Institute, the number of new childhood leukemia cases in 1979 should have been 3.5 per 100,000 children per year, with a 1.8 death rate. The same graduating class had a total of 31 students out of the 256 recorded impacted by cancer/rare diseases, including 3 deaths from ALS/ Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In the Florida Department of Health cancer assessment, Manatee County School District was tasked to verify if a participant in the study attended or worked at Bayshore High School. However, the school district’s data only went back to 1985. 

Not verifying if a participant attended BHS before 1985, this eliminated classes, for example, the class of 1979, which had excessive rare cancers/illnesses.
Jozsa asks, “Why did a similar study on the opposite coast, the Brevard County Cancer Assessment, only take 8 months to complete while Manatee County’s assessment took nearly 3 years? Bayshore required patient listing forms, limited the study to the school’s zip code, and omitted some of the most affected from the study.”  
Jacksonville Oncologist and cancer survivor Julie Greenwalt asked the Florida Department of Health to look into a similar cancer cluster at Satellite High School. The health department compared cancer rates in two zip codes to cancer rates nationwide. The Brevard County Cancer Assessment found a statistically significant excess of cancer cases in the areas of concern. The Department of Health limited the Bayshore High School study to the 34210 zip code where the campus is located. 
Experts for the Bayshore High alumni group determined that a former machine parts manufacturing company, Riverside Products, was a potential contributor of toxins to the area surrounding Bayshore High School. A Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FLDEP) Memo dated Aug 1995 regarding the property stated, “Sufficient data exist which clearly indicate that contamination from the site is threatening public health and the environment.” To date, the former Riverside Products property still has not been given the status as fully remediated.  According to documents in the FLDEP Oculus database, On Monday, 11/30/2020, a meeting was held to discuss the current owner’s inability to pay for the continued clean up of the property, despite having purchased the property in 1996 with full knowledge that it was contaminated. 
Geologist Dave Woodhouse met with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in July 2017 and explained that they improperly underscored the Riverside Products property’s initial assessment. Mr. Woodhouse stated that had the property been scored correctly, it would have been eligible for state/federal clean-up assistance. 
The Department of Health (DOH) explicitly stated at the May 2017 town hall meeting that the group would first have to be identified as a cancer cluster before the Florida Department of Health would perform any environmental investigation. The Florida Department of Health Report released Thursday states: “While no documented environmental exposure link could be found for the area of the old Bayshore High School.” 
Martha McBride, the Deputy Director of Investigations and a part of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Florida Department of Health (DOH), sent an email on 11/26/2020 to Jim Thompson, the father of a Bayshore High School alumni. The email states, “The OIG learned DOH had limited involvement in the actions regarding the Riverside Products property. The last time DOH staff were onsite was in 1999 to take a water well sample.”

Jozsa questions the Department of Health report, where it states that there was no documented environmental exposure when there is documentation indicating such. 
Additionally, the nonprofit organization Fight For Zero questions the data and methodology used. Jozsa asks, “How can we trust that the Department of Health and the State of Florida are adequately assessing and taking these cancer cluster concerns seriously when the Department of Health fired a Florida Data Scientist for not manipulating COVID-19 data.” 
Fight For Zero met with the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget on May 7, 2019, and brought forward the concern that the State of Florida Department of Health does not have a standard protocol for investigating cancer clusters. The organization compared assessments from The Acreage, St. Lucie County, Brevard County, and Manatee County, where data collection and the verification process differed. 
“Communities who bring forward contamination and health concerns need a meaningful investigation with criteria that includes blood and environmental testing. Waiting to establish a cancer cluster creates new victims of toxic exposures. It’s time to acknowledge that 31 students in the same graduating class coming down with cancer like it’s a virus isn’t normal,” said Jozsa. 
Fight For Zero, Inc. | |

Fight for Zero

Our team brings passion and drive to take on environmental health challenges. Our mission is to inform, educate, share resources, and inspire action to protect natural resources.


  1. I attended the "old" Bayshore from 1994-1998(98 was the last year that building was in use by students before they flattened it). I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in December of 1997. I am really sad that they continue to deny, deflect and run away from the truth. Please keep fighting and If I can help in anyway please let me know.

    1. Our west coast director, Cheryl, is working with a biostatistician to do an independent health assessment with data that the Department of Health did not use. We will update once that is out. Glad you're doing good after fighting Hodgkin's Lymphoma!

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