Cancer Cluster Facebook Group Presses on after Health Dept.'s New Fridley Data

Many still asking if Fridley's cancer cases have environmental causes.

Members of the Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group took notice this week when the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released two new sets of data:

  • The first set showed that Fridley for the 1990s.
  • The second set 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 .

But many of the more than 2,600 members of the 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, ’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 “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 .

Jason McCarty April 19, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Another thing to keep in mind, TCE can vapor intrude into the air. Commons Well field is right by the Middle and High School. Along with the old Parkview school on 7th when it was open. So are the ball fields, the park, etc. Fridley does not have a high water table and sandy soil make it possible to escape. http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/investigations/soil_gas/svi_guidance/fs_tce.htm
Jason McCarty April 19, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Opps forgot the link http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/hazardous/sites/anoka/fridley1201.pdf
Jason McCarty April 19, 2012 at 09:23 PM
The city and the state have the power to shut them down. They did not. Also, I am trying to get the well testing data for the wells that service just the middle and high school if there are any. I know currently the middle school well is used for irrigation only. If that well has TCE concentrations in it, that means it can get airborn easier when they are watering etc.
Jason McCarty April 19, 2012 at 09:24 PM
They are at acceptable limits now. I want to know what they were from 84-92. If you have that data please share with us.
Jason McCarty April 19, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Chris the link is below. I forgot it. Sorry
Wendy Olson April 19, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Thanks for the document link from the New York State Department of Health. Actually, it eases my mind about my exposure to airborne TCE, even though I went to Parkview, Fridley Jr. High and Fridley Sr. High and spent many years playing in Commons Park, given the information contained in the answer to this question: "Should I be concerned about health effects if I am exposed to air levels slightly above the guideline? Below the guideline? The possibility of health effects occurring is low even at air levels slightly above the guideline. In addition, the guideline is based on the assumption that people are continuously exposed to TCE in air all day, every day for as long as a lifetime. This is rarely true for most people who are likely to be exposed for only part of the day and part of their lifetime."
Mandy Meisner April 19, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Thank you Wendy, for sharing informed and well balanced observations.
Wendy Olson April 19, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I have a question which I posed on the Facebook post about this article, and I'm truly curious... My question for the Cancer Cluster Facebook Group is what are you looking for and why? I see a lot of fingerpointing and references to "coverups" but I don't see a real mission statement or clear goal about what information is being sought and for what reason.
Jason McCarty April 19, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I have said from day 1 I want answers ad to why my friends, family, and neighbors have been getting cancer. Why is it happening? Bad luck? Superfund sites and exposure? I don't know hence the reason for the group.
Wendy Olson April 19, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Ok, well, I was thinking if I was looking for an answer or answers to such a complex question, I would consider all potential answers without dismissing them out of hand. Aside from the stories of illnesses on the facebook page, I'm seeing a lot of focus on TCE and the Superfund sites and coverups by various levels of government. I'm also seeing some misinterpretation of information, such as the role of tobacco, for example: The MDH is not stating it caused all the cancers in Fridley (as at least one person has posted) but that its role in lung cancers may have tipped the numbers over the expected. Why would that be any less plausible than the claim that we were all exposed to TCE and that is why all these people have cancer? Both claims need closer examination before any conclusions can be drawn. I guess my confusion about the purpose of this facebook group came from the fact that it appears that most people there seem to believe they've found the answer -- and any information that might suggest anything else is not only dismissed but is often characterized as something it is not and was never attended to be. To allow statements such as those to go unchallenged suggests to me that this is less a quest for answers than it is for a search for someone or something on which to lay blame.
Mandy Meisner April 20, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Jason, You can base opinions on facts. You can base opinions not on facts. But you can't base facts on opinions. It is my opnion that you state many of your opinions as facts, or at the very least with the conviction of one who has already made up their mind. Case in point, your recent intereview on WCCO your statement to the new data from the MN Dept. of Health, “To me, reading it seems like a blind statement thrown out there,” he said. “Let’s see some facts.” You go on to say, “Have they looked into it? If they have, where’s the documentation on it?” he questioned. Mr. Soler and his team have just spent the last few weeks dedicated to running new numbers for you, specifically. That IS the documentation.... To imply the MN Dept. of Health randomly came up with numbers seems folly.
Mandy Meisner April 20, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Also, I do see your point about tracking people who have moved away who now have cancer, or who had cancer (the ATSDR survey). It only makes sense then, that you ALSO track all the people here now who have cancer but have come from other places (in the same 20 - 50 year time frame you are looking at). Are you doing that too?
Jason McCarty April 20, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Facts would be documentation to back up the claim of the higher incidents if smoking. Those were not provided. It would be like me saying I saw bigfoot. You would want proof correct? That's all I asked. And to say they looked into it. Yes they did but only looked at one potential cause of the lung cancer increase. There are many other causes of such cancer.
Jason McCarty April 20, 2012 at 01:13 AM
I would agree Mandy but nobody has agreed to a study yet. The state even said the average residency of a person in Fridley is 5 years. I wish we had answers but all we have is more questions.
Wendy Olson April 20, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Jason, I find I am no longer blocked from seeing your comments on the facebook page and now I realize where the tone of this page is coming from. It's clear to me from the rhetoric that this group is not really looking for answers but simply for information to back up what they already believe is the answer and dismissing any information that might suggest the answers lie somewhere else and creating the very media frenzy that Mr. Bowcock indicated he would like to avoid.
Mike Hoag April 20, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Wendy Olson, who is paying you to be a shill?
Wendy Olson April 20, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Mike Hoag, that is exactly the type of comment that people who dared to question the status quo on the facebook group page were subjected to and that made me take a closer look at what was actually being said. Apparently the only valid point of view that is allowed to be expressed is one that agrees with your conclusions. By the way, name calling is usually resorted to when one doesn't have anything constructive to add to a conversation.
Mike Hoag April 20, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Wendy Olson, the group is just inquiring on all the reported cancer cases from people who grew up in Fridley. There is no group point of view. The only mention of a group point of view is when you and a few individuals joined the group. Are you worried about your property values?
Wendy Olson April 20, 2012 at 02:26 AM
No, not really... I no longer live in Fridley; I grew up there in the 60s and 70s, so I would be one of those residents who supposedly would have exposure to any carcinogens pre- and post-Superfund cleanups; you might have noticed from my previous post that I lived, played, and went to school smack dab in the Commons Wells site. I did not join the group; I was added by a well-meaning friend and I left when I started seeing people who tried to inject a different view of this issue get bullied by a core group of people. I think it would be hard to defend there is not a group point of view on this page when it's being expressed in nearly every post.
Mike Hoag April 20, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Congratulation Wendy Olson, you and me are lucky so far. I grew up in Fridley from 1968 to 1982. Supposedly? There you go again. No one ever said that every case reported on the group are because of multiple National Priority List sites in Fridley. We are in discovery mode.
Wendy Olson April 20, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I used the word supposedly because I can't say for certain that I was exposed to carcinogens while growing up in Fridley, I don't yet have the facts; therefore, I don't feel I can draw a conclusion. I would hope that on your journey of discovery, you would keep an open mind and consider all the possibilities and leave talk of blame and coverups off the table. That doesn't accomplish anything and only contributes to an atmosphere of fear and distrust that may be unfounded.
Mandy Meisner April 20, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Respectfully, you're serious about needing facts to prove there is a link between smoking and lung cancer? Perhaps you forget the billion-dollar tobacco settlement based on that evidence? But you raise an important point about the many causes of cancer. Perhaps we could accept the facts as presented by Harvard University regarding the dominant causes of cancer: please refer to the graph on the bottom of page 4 of this document on the MDH website: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/hpcd/cdee/mcss/documents/mncancerfactsfigures2011033011.pdf It shows a Harvard study of the primary causes of cancer, with smoking and diet/obesity as the two dominant drivers of cancer. So I believe we have proof that these many factors (besides occupational exposure and pollution) cause most cancer cases. Now to figure out if the Fridley cancer rate is higher due to TCE (which I would put in Harvard's pollution or occupational exposure category) don't we first have to 'remove' all the cancer cases caused by all these other factors? I'm beginning to understand why John Soler says it will be extremely difficult to figure out if there is any environmental factor influencing Fridley cancer rates.
Mandy Meisner April 20, 2012 at 04:08 AM
(Mike: perhaps the correct legal term should be 'allegedly' since, to your point, there is nothing known yet and you are in discovery mode.) Anyway, you and Wendy raise an important point about the idea of studying the people who lived here 30-40 years ago. It's not sufficient to just find those people who lived here who got cancer after they moved away. You also have to track ALL the people who lived here and DON'T have cancer, like Wendy and yourself. Otherwise you can not assess the cancer 'rate' and compare it to the expected rate. At the same time, as I mentioned earlier, you have to "uncount" the cancer cases of people who've lived here less than 20 years. Sounds like a herculean task.
UDahl April 21, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Romper, stomper, bomper, boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me who? ALL of you should be ashamed of the biting each others tails that you have been displaying -- patch or facebook -- no matter. As I watch my girlfriend suffer through her illness, she never points fingers or gets argumentative but simply wants to spread joy and hope. How many of you here that are "cancerously" defending your "opinions" or "facts" care to think about how much anxiety you are placing on those running a race against cancer and just simply want to save other lives with answers and not speculation or bickering. Take a break from hostility and hold hands will you?
UDahl April 21, 2012 at 05:47 AM
PS. Look in the magic mirror if you can and say "I see Hope".
Mandy Meisner April 21, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Thank you.
Mary Jo Theis April 23, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Wendy You want to know the purpose of all the interest in Fridley water. My life is on the down slide as is everyone who grew up in the 60's. I am fortunate that I was healthy and enjoyed life. Not so for my whole family that suffered from full body cancer after living on 61st in Fridley. Was it genetic, unlucky, I don't know and the answer won't bring them back. What I do know is I care enough about our future generations and trying to make us a people who look past our own noses to question what could have happened a be smart enough not to have it happen again .
Wendy Olson April 23, 2012 at 08:50 PM
No, I clearly understand the purpose of the interest in the Fridley water. What I don't understand is the aggressive, adversarial, blame game. These people wanted numbers and when they got them, it wasn't good enough. They got additional numbers and again they weren't good enough. The city provided input from the agencies who can answer questions about the water and Superfund sites, but that wasn't good enough. There is a lot of language accusing the city of taking money to ignore the numbers, of covering up, of the state somehow not releasing the right data, and on and on. I saw people who posted a different perspective or asked questions like mine get ganged up on and sometimes asked or told to leave the group. What I don't understand is what good that kind of attitude does in the search for what has been termed "the truth." Will they recognize the truth when they find it if they're searching with closed minds? I also don't understand your question about whether I was in the "high class of 1969." I'm not sure what you mean by that would explain it. I just think a little fairness and open mindedness couldn't hurt.
Mary Jo Theis April 23, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Wendy I came from a generation of selfish young people including myself that in my opinion were disrespectful and felt entitled to get what we need for ourselves and not worry about anyone else. We ruined water, land , and air. Now we need to fix it and some people are denying it happened or who needs to step up to the plate and ask questions. We may not like the answers, but it needs to be asked. I believe this is fair and opened minded.
Doris Knutson April 05, 2013 at 05:24 AM
I am concerned because of the # of cancer & other terminal cases just on our street alone, Starlite Blvd. in Fridley. Six homes in a row, with breast cancer, 2 lung cancer, 2 leukemia, 2 prostate cancers, in addition, lupus, MS,etc. Coincidence? I don't know either, Jason


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