Erin Brockovich investigating Fridley's elevated cancer rates

Categories: Health
erin brockovich.jpg
Fridley's elevated cancer rate is among Brockovich's 100 more urgent cases.
Erin Brockovich's investigative team is looking into Fridley's elevated cancer rates.

Two months ago, concerns about the cause of Fridley's elevated cancer rates motivated residents to create a "Fridley Cancer Cluster" Facebook group. More than 440 members have used the page to share anecdotes about cancer-afflicted Fridley residents.

State data indicates that rates for certain cancers are indeed elevated in Fridley, and some residents believe it might have something to do with water contamination in the city. Brockovich heard about the issue and wrote to the Facebook group's founder, saying, "I am deeply sorry to hear about the situation in Fridley, Minnesota, and will be investigating this matter further."

From an email written by John Soler, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health
fridley water tower.jpg
Some Fridley residents believe the city's elevated cancer rate might have something to do with water contamination.
As you can see, the number of total cancers (1537) is about +10% higher than would be expected if cancer rates in Fridley were like that of Minnesota. Lung cancer (224) jumps out at +30% higher than expected and accounts for a considerable portion of the overall excess. This lung cancer elevation is true for males and females but is especially high in females (+48%). Lung cancer is typically associated with smoking history and past occupational exposures particularly for men. Bladder cancer (+16%), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (+14%) and breast cancer (+8%) are higher than the state average. You can see that some of the cancer sites are below the expected number, some above, and quite a few are at the expected number. This is very typical of zip codes. (These seven census tracts approximate 55432.) While +10% is higher than the state average, I will note that 10% (in either direction) is not particularly unusual given the high lung cancer excess.
Of course, pointing out that some cancers occur in Fridley at levels above the statewide norm doesn't necessarily mean there's anything about the city causing those cancers. It could just be the case, for instance, that the smoking rate in Fridley is 30 percent above the statewide norm. But with hundreds of stories connecting Fridley with cancer and fertility problems, Brokovich's team is going to see if there's any fire underneath the smoke.

From Fridley Patch:
Bob Bowcock, Brockovich's environmental investigator, posted a message on the Fridley Cancer Cluster's message board asking Fridley residents to send him information (he included his email address: bbowcock@irmwater.com) and cautioning that the investigation did not mean that there was necessarily any danger.

"I do not have any information that there is any immediate health related concerns, and the community water system is presently in compliance for all drinking water standards," Bowcock wrote
Brockovich, a legal clerk and environmental activist, made a name for herself in the 1990s by leading the effort to pursue legal action against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company after it allegedly contaminated groundwater near Hinkley, California. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million, and a study released two years ago showed that cancer rates in Hinkley "remained remarkable from 1988 to 2008." Brokovich's role in the legal drama was memorably portrayed by Julia Roberts in the 2000 film, Erin Brockovich.

It remains to be seen whether elevated cancer rates in Fridley have a similar environmental cause, but members of Fridley Cancer Cluster certainly appreciate Brockovich having their collective back. One post, in response to Brockovich's announcement that Fridley is among her 100 most urgent cases, wrote simply: "Rock on Erin thank you and God bless."

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27 comments
jessiem7
jessiem7

I was just reading my Human Biology Text and reading about Radon. We (Minneapolis and surroundings) are in between Zone levels 1 & 2, for levels of Radon with 1 being the lowest. I know that our basement is made of cement block and sheet rock (semisolid objects) which radon can pass right through. Radon testing kits are available in some retail stores to test for the level of radon in our homes (particularly basements) and are about $25. If people spend a lot of time in their basements or even have bedrooms which they sleep in, maybe it would be good to know what the levels are and what we are exposed to daily. My kids play a lot in our basement in the winter, so i will be testing for sure before the snow hits. Getting more air flow in basement can possibly reduce the levels of radon also. Just thought this was interesting as I am studying. My degree is in Physical Education, so I come across a lot of health information and facts. The text book I am reading is Human Biology (Concepts and Current Issues, by Michael D. Johnson, seventh edition.

jessiem7
jessiem7

Hello, I just moved to Fridley in April. We have a Culligan filtration system in our home and the water tastes OK for cooking and even drinking if really thirsty. We usually refill up a large culligan tank (Just under $2 for 5 gallons) at the grocery store though to avoid drinking city water too much. I am a little concerned about this issue, but maybe extra filtering in homes might clear up some worry for everyone. I haven't heard of any cases around my neighborhood but will definitely keep an eye out while we live here. Has anyone ever thought about relating the water quality to large companies/factories around here. We live over off Central and 57th. i won't say names, but wonder if there would be any contamination going on from them. Glad to know everyone is getting together and good luck, it sounds like a tough investigation on our hands.

SBancroft1950
SBancroft1950

I was born in 1950 and my family lived in Mounds View until we moved to New Brighton in the early 1960's.  I had to have a hysterectomy when I was 25 due to "pre" cancer cells in my uterus detected during a routine check up after my daughter was born.  Thank God I had a son and a daughter by 1975, because after that I would have had no children.  My dad also developed colon cancer, leukemia, then lymphoma, and died in 1994.  Everyone in our family has complaind about the taste of New Brighton water.  When we left home to begin our own lives, we wouldn't even drink coffee made from that water.  It was disgusting.  To think theat the city knew of this problem and never warned us, makes me sick.  My dad may still be here!

 

S. Brown

 

Jane Tomascak Huhtala
Jane Tomascak Huhtala

How about a look at New Brighton, MN that is located next to Fridley. On my block we have 5 houses next to each other that have had 7 cases of breast cancer and 1 uterine cancer that I know of. We all lived in these houses from 1955 to present. Some houses have had a lot of turnover so there could be more cases from people who have moved away.

Runlrnmchn
Runlrnmchn

I just watched a story on WCCO TV about the increased cancer rate in Fridley Minnesota. I made a similar observation back in 1986/87 and confronted the Fridley city Council on this issue. I have found an unacceptable level of TCE in one of the city wells as identified with the Minnesota public health department. The city Council assured me that they would take this well off-line and would only use in emergencies. I still believe I have the VHS tape of this meeting if anyone is interested.Jim Bauer. Fridley Minnesota

Helen Pratt
Helen Pratt

This is a must read for anyone who has ever lived in Fridley.  It's always dangerous when youare not given all the information available, but, to have none of this known is irresponsible.  We need to be aware. Please read for your own health and safety.

Susan Anderson
Susan Anderson

wouldn't it be great if every community had an investigato checking out the local health issues, there is so much going on that people are unaware of and this will help so much!! Dr.Su

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Fridley treats its water with a form of active carbon called anthracite in large pressure vessels.  Anthracite will remove most all contaminates from the water.   (kind of like of giant Brita Water filter)

The reason they do this is because Fridley buys a lot of it's water from New Brighton, especially in the winter time.  New Brighton sells it water to neighboring cities because it prevents contaminants in the upper water table of New Brighton from leaching into the lower water aquifers.  New Brighton's water is contaminated from activities of years past at the Arden Hills Army Ammunition Plant. (so they claim)  Essentially, Fridley has been buying low level contaminated water, cleaning it up, and selling it to the public.   This has been happening for years.Shhh, don't tell anyone...And what, people think they can sue the government like you can a private company?Good luck!That is one of the "rights" you pretty much give up when you rely on government in place of private companies.   If you sue the city you sue the tax payer and only the tax payer.

Jason McCarty
Jason McCarty

For the record I am the sole person who started this group. One of my close friends just passed away at age 50 of Brain cancer. His mother, and Father also have come down with different cancers. He didn't drink, smoke, nor do any drugs. This got me thinking in my old neighborhood there seemed to be quiet a few cases. In one days time, I added up over 30 within 2 blocks of my old house. The previous home owners had 2 cases. Father had prostrate and lung, 15 year old son died of brain cancer. My mom had breast cancer with no history. 2 different families, 3 cancers, same house. Too much of a coincidence for me.

Maureen S
Maureen S

The state cancer statistics are based on the address of the individual at the time of diagnosis.  The Fridley Cancer Cluster Facebook group is uncovering high rates of cancer in people who grew up in Fridley at the time that the city wells were contaminated with TCE who may or may not have lived in Fridley when diagnosed with cancer.  

MIke
MIke

That statistics are just for 2000-2009. A different story is unfolding on the Fridley Cancer Cluster page on Facebook.

K8te
K8te

Not surprising. Look up Fridley, MN Superfund site and you can find out about the contamination in this area. There's a "plume" of contamination that stretches down all the way to Roseville. 

amiller92
amiller92

It sure sounds to me like Soler is saying that Fridley's above average but within normal statistical variance.

I'd want to know why lung cancer's so much higher though.

Barb Flaherty
Barb Flaherty

Years ago I wrote to Ms Brockovich and never received a response.  I live in New Brighton (Fridley is at the end of my street) and of the four homes in our cul-de-sac, cancer hit all of us.  Two people died, one woman had brain cancer, I had breast cancer two times, and four dogs died of cancer too.  I just thought that seemed to be a bit much.  My boyfriends mom just passed away and she lived on Rice Creek Terrace.  Her home was in New Brighton, but the next door was Fridley.  She had cancer four times.  She had breast cancer two times, colon cancer, and just passed away a few months ago of throat cancer.  She, her spouse, or children never smoked.  I too was very healthy when I was diagnosed with cancer, no family history, did not smoke, only a little over 100lbs.  I sent an email to Mr Bowcock about it. 

Jason McCarty
Jason McCarty

Jim, could you somehow get me a copy of this information. I would love to have it and forward onto Erin and her team. Contact me via Facebook please. 

Jason McCarty
Jason McCarty

You have not seen the water reports I have showing contaminated water many times over the legal limit. Sometimes 70 or 80 times. 

Water is public
Water is public

 While water safety standards should be maximized everywhere, with intelligent people running them instead of whatever moron shows up on the ballot, there's no way a for-profit company is going to be more trustworthy to deliver water than a municipality.

J.
J.

Mr. McCarty,

I don't live in Fridley but I grew up in the area. I used to play and fish along Rice Creek and I also saw the old metal drums. I know of other cancer cases that will be added to the map and I would like to send you some information. I don't have a Facebook account. Is there any other way I can contact you?

J.

NA
NA

What area is this?  My family grew up in Fridley and my father recently passed away from pumonary fibrosis (lung). 

mike
mike

Anything to do with the fact the average age of a homeowner is about 73?

J.
J.

Mr. McCarty,

Do those reports list specific sites in Fridley?What are the rates around the FMC/BAE Systems site?

Jason McCarty
Jason McCarty

You can email Bob Bowcock as he is leading the investigation for Erin Brockovich atbbowcock@irmwater.com                                                                   

Mary
Mary

My niece lives in Fridley and at the age of 31 battled Non Hodgkins Lymphoma

Jason Dorweiler
Jason Dorweiler

That wouldn't matter. You cannot associate cancer with age. If people eat right and avoid chemicals there is no reason why you should ever get cancer.This is very reminiscent of the USMC base that had contaminated water and in turn led to many people passing from various cancers. Very unfortunate situation for innocent victims.

Tcdanish
Tcdanish

Unfortunately myself and four of my classmates from Fridley were diagnosed with cancer in our 20s and 30s.  So it definitely isn't because of the average age of a homeowner in Fridley. 

J.
J.

Alright, thank you.

Ramona
Ramona

My Mother died 3 yrs ago from cancer as did her neighbor with zip codes 55433

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