Cancer Cluster Facebook Group Presses on after Health Dept.'s New Fridley Data
Many still asking if Fridley's cancer cases have environmental causes.
- The first set showed that Fridley cancer figures were only slightly higher than the state average for the 1990s.
- The second set downwardly revised Fridley's cancer figures for the 2000s from 10 percent to 7.65 percent above average.
An MDH official added that such spikes in the city’s cancer rate were not unusual and likely were largely due to elevated smoking rates in Anoka County.
But many of the more than 2,600 members of the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group remain convinced that environmental causes are to blame for a significant number of Fridley’s cancer cases.
Members of the group are rallying for a survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) that would look at cancer rates of Fridley residents starting in the 1960s.
Jason McCarty, the Facebook group’s founder, and others write that they believe the state’s data do not accurately reflect cases in which former Fridley residents contracted cancer after leaving the area. (State officials such as epidemiologist John Soler concede this point but say gathering the data would be very difficult.)
“What I would like to see is a survey of people who lived in Fridley for a given time then moved away and were diagnosed in another community,” McCarty wrote on the Facebook group’s discussion board. “Currently the standard is for cases that were diagnosed in a given zip code. To me this is a skewed statistic.”
The Brockovich investigation
Bob Bowcock, consumer advocate Erin Brockovich’s environmental investigator, is still collecting anecdotal information about current and former Fridley residents.
“I have scores of reported cancers from people who lived in Fridley for forty years or more [who] died in the statistical time period, yet moved away before they could be counted,” Bowcock wrote on the FCC group's page.
Bowcock said he remains very concerned about four Fridley locations—FMC Corp., Kurt Manufacturing Co., Fridley Commons Park Well Field and the Naval Industrial Reserve Ordnance Plant—on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), the agency’s catalogue of the most hazardous of the nation’s hazardous waste sites.
He called the state health department’s revised data “statistically insignificant” and said the elevation of lung cancer rates in Fridley—30 percent higher than the state average overall, and 49 percent higher among women—was “extremely disturbing.”
“To hint that smoking is the cause is a little impertinent,” he wrote on Facebook. “Likewise, [to say] that the level of industrial pollution is not of a concern and residents should look at naturally occurring radon gas exposure is a bit insolent.”
Bowcock said he is still planning on visiting the area with Brockovich in mid-May.