Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook Group Reaches 2,500 Members
Group founder Jason McCarty said he's been surprised by the community response.
On Monday, the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group, a discussion board started by former Fridley resident Jason McCarty in order to explore the possibility that Fridley’s elevated cancer rates could be due to environmental causes, hit the 2,500 member milestone.
McCarty, who started the group in January after a close friend died of brain cancer at age 49, said he has been surprised by the community response.
“All the support and email that we’ve been receiving has been phenomenal,” he said. “I walked into Cope’s Barber Shop in Fridley and someone got out of the chair, shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you,’ and I wasn’t expecting that—that kind of touched me.”
The group’s membership is actively sharing anecdotes about friends, family and neighbors who contracted cancer after living in the city, and the group’s cohesion has attracted the attention of consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, who plans to visit Fridley in May.
(McCarty recently ordered the 2000 Julia Roberts movie portraying Brockovich, and he plans to watch it with his wife and kids.)
The group has also attracted the attention of state and local officials, with a state toxicologist pouring through Fridley’s 1990s and 2000s cancer figures and the city of Fridley asking the department of health to conduct an unscheduled test of well water near a Superfund site.
Officials have maintained that while Fridley’s cancer figures are elevated, it is difficult to draw a correlation or causation between cancers and pollutants.
McCarty said that the large community response has confirmed his suspicion that there is something to uncover.
“With me growing up in Fridley, and my friends and family, there’s always been an undercurrent of something going on,” he said. “I knew there was something to it, but I didn’t think there was as much out there as there is after looking at the map.”
The more than 470 user-added pins on Fridley Patch's interactive map have been clicked on 17,000 times.
McCarty said he has heard that many people are joining Facebook just to participate in the conversation on the Fridley Cancer Cluster discussion board.
“Fridley was a small town in a big city, and if you’re from Fridley, you’re friends with everybody else, and that’s holding true with this group,” he said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg that we hit.”
Here’s Fridley Patch’s rundown on recent developments and topics of discussion within the group:
- A group member shared a link to a toxicological profile of TCE, a chemical known to have been released into the soil at Fridley Supefund sites.
- In the documents portion of the Facebook page, group members are adding and curating links to information, both general and specific to Fridley, on contaminants and Superfund sites.
- Group members continue to share stories of families with multiple incidents of cancer. One such story:
I lived [on the 5000 block of] Topper Lane NE Fridley. This is right off 50th and Main Street. Our family moved to this house in 1958 when I was three months old. I remember as a child playing in the vacant field at 49th and Main street right behind FMC. I grew up just two blocks from FMC. My father was 30 years old when he moved to the house in 1958. In 1974 at the age of 46 he died of pancreatic cancer. My brother was 2 years old when we moved in. My brother died in 2000 at the age of 44 of lung cancer. We sold the house in 2000. I am now 53 and have numerous nodules on my lungs that I have CAT scans done on every three months. Talk about walking around feeling like a time bomb. My mother is 80 and has COPD. I have always wondered why my dad and brother died at such a young age. I remember when the doctor at Mercy hospital came to tell my brother the results of the fluid they took from his lungs was. Before she told him he had lung cancer she asked him where he was exposed to asbestos. My brother's wife, Dave and I just looked at the doctor and could not say where. Well, I think we probably just found our answer.