When Megan Diediker was aboriginal diagnosed with breast blight at age 34, the aerial academy geometry abecedary wondered whether article in the ambiance could accept played a role.
But she eventually let the questions go, she said, to focus on accepting better.
Then a aide fell ill aftermost year with an advancing academician cancer. It was the seventh blight analysis amid agents at Park Aerial Academy in Cottage Grove in six years, Diediker said — about all in bodies beneath age 50. Before long, she and some colleagues had fatigued up a account of about 30 accepted and aloft Park Aerial agents who apprenticed assorted cancers back 1990, some of them twice. Two — one of whom back died from the blight — aggregate the aforementioned classroom.
“I revisited aggregate and anticipation ‘What is activity on here?’ ” Diediker said.
The Minnesota Department of Bloom advised the amount and assured it is not a blight cluster. Proven blight clusters are rare.
Even so, Diediker sees red flags. She and addition abecedary accept retained a advocate and plan to abide alone workers’ advantage claims to the South Washington County Academy District, forth with three added accepted and aloft employees.
Diediker says they don’t apperceive whether article in the academy played a role in their cancers, but they achievement that the action of vetting the workers’ atone claims will afford ablaze on the situation. Diediker, who coaches girls basketball and lives in Mahtomedi, said she loves alive at Park Aerial and aloof wants to apperceive that the bodies who assignment there are safe.
As it happens, Cottage Grove is arena aught in Minnesota for baptize contagion from a set of compounds accepted PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), the cancer-linked “forever chemicals” that are the accountable of a 20-year remediation project. 3M Co. bogus the aboriginal chemicals for decades at its Chemolite Bulb there and dumped attenuated decay in four adjacent landfills. Washington County is the focus of an $850 actor cloister adjustment the accompaniment accomplished with 3M in 2018 for accident to bubbler baptize and the environment.
Lawsuit a possibility
If the workers’ atone analysis establishes a articulation amid the diseases and some third factor, the agents may accede a lawsuit, said Dean Salita, the claimed abrasion advocate they retained. Salita said the worker’s atone claims should be filed aural two months.
The cancers aloof assume too coincidental, Salita said. “Mother Nature is not that barbarous to that abounding bodies in one school.”
Keith Jacobus, administrator of South Washington County Schools, said he’s demography the amount seriously. He discussed it with the district’s accessories agents aftermost abatement and directed them to acquaintance the accompaniment Department of Health, breadth admiral said they didn’t anticipate there was a bloom accident at the school.
“We accept to chase the ability of bodies who apperceive this, against authoritative acumen calls of our own,” Jacobus said.
‘Our baptize is apple-pie and safe’
Salita and the agents say they can’t point to a culprit in the cancers. Diediker mentioned PFAS. One abstraction they’ve floated is asbestos.
The school’s asbestos abatement was agitated out by a state-approved architect in 2008-2010 while academy was in affair and complex the accession of a new blast system. But asbestos is primarily associated with lung cancer, and alone one agent on the Park Aerial account was stricken with that form.
Several of the burghal wells that serve the school, wells No. 3-9, accept activated aloft the accepted Minnesota bloom banned for altered PFAS compounds over the aftermost decade, according to a Star Tribune analysis of accompaniment Department of Bloom able-bodied testing data. In some of those tests, concentrations were added than alert the state’s assurance limit.
But burghal admiral say they’re assured the school’s baptize is not an issue; the wells that accumulation Park Aerial are consistently activated for PFAS, and the burghal has dealt with the wells that accept activated aloft the state’s health-based ethics for assorted PFAS compounds.
Well No. 3, for example, was outfitted with a carbon clarify system. Wells No. 4 and 6 were shut bottomward in 2017 back the accompaniment anchored assurance benchmarks for assertive PFAS. Concentrations of assertive PFAS in three added wells accept acicular a few times in contempo years, but that baptize is attenuated with the baptize from a safe able-bodied and is aural all thresholds, according to Burghal Engineer Ryan Burfeind.
“Our baptize is apple-pie and safe to drink,” Burfeind said.
It ability not accept been in years past, however.
Margee Brown, a analysis scientist at the accompaniment Bloom Department, said she doubts the Park Aerial case meets the American Blight Society analogue of a blight cluster: “a greater-than-expected cardinal of blight cases that occurs aural a accumulation of bodies in a authentic geographic breadth over a specific aeon of time.”
Brown said the Park Aerial account includes bodies with several altered types of blight over about 30 years, which suggests no distinct ecology cause. “It does not arise that unusual, based on what we apperceive about blight and how accepted it is,” she said.
“Roughly four out of 10 of us will be diagnosed with blight at some point in our lives,” Brown added. “I anticipate a lot of bodies are not acquainted of that.”
Dozens of inquiries
The Bloom Department fields dozens of inquiries about perceived association blight clusters anniversary year but has accepted alone two in the accomplished 40 years that were affiliated to ecology or anatomic exposures: mesothelioma accompanying to asbestos acknowledgment on the Iron Range, and lung cancers and mesothelioma in northeast Minneapolis accompanying to asbestos from a W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite processing plant.
Brown said she empathizes with the abhorrence and all-overs that blight provokes. “People accomplish these associations, naturally,” she said.
Brown’s allegation answer the department’s beyond analysis of bloom outcomes in areas of Washington County attenuated with PFAS. It begin no clusters of cancer, abortive births or low-birth-weight babies.
But an able attestant assassin by then-state Attorney General Lori Swanson back she sued 3M came to altered conclusions. David Sunding, a accustomed assets economist at the University of California, Berkeley, assured that Washington County association accept animated ante of cancer, infertility and low-birth-weight babies.
Not all the Park Aerial blight survivors see a affiliation amid their illnesses.
Retired abecedary Christine Norton, who was diagnosed with breast blight in 1990 and co-founded the Minnesota Breast Blight Coalition, said that 28 cases “just does not assume like a aerial number” for a academy of that size. “People appetite an explanation,” Norton added.
Diediker is not persuaded. She acerb disagrees with the state’s finding.
“I anticipate it’s absolutely [wrong], and the attorneys agree,” she said. “There’s article in the building.”
Staff biographer MaryJo Webster contributed to this report.
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