Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich will be working on a case concerning residents from a Minneapolis suburb becoming ill at a startling rate. (Photo by Radio Bilingue via Flikr)

This is Part One of a MintPress series about a cluster of rare illnesses in a Minneapolis, Minn. suburb. Click here to read Part Two, and here for Part Three.

July 11, 2012• Joey LeMay

(MintPress) – Concerned citizens in the Minneapolis, Minn. suburb of Brooklyn Park are voicing their concerns over a potential illness cluster that is allegedly running rampant in people between the ages of 35 and 45. Instances of auto-immune disease, various forms of cancer and neurological disorders are being reported by the demographic who currently or once lived in Brooklyn Park or attended the city’s Park Center Senior High School or Brooklyn Junior High School.

Kim Dombrowski Hutchens has been aggregating data on the instances of illness after reconnecting with former classmates on Facebook. Hutchens wrote that many of her former classmates had been diagnosed with conditions such as lupus, pancreatic disease, multiple sclerosis, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), pemphigus and, in her case, Myasthenia Gravis – a neuromuscular disorder.

Hutchens has launched a Facebook campaign, Brooklyn Park Illness Suspicions, with the hopes of raising awareness of the issues and with the intent that more people who currently or once lived in the area will come forward and voice their concerns and experiences.

Recently, environmental activist Erin Brockovich visited Fridley, Minn. to help investigate concerns of a cancer cluster within the town’s residents. Fridley is seven miles east of Brooklyn Park.

In a letter to Brockovich, Hutchens detailed concerns of people her age that either lived in the area or attended some of the public schools that seem to act as a link between everyone who has fallen ill. Accounting for the ages of those afflicted, they likely would have graduated from Park Center Senior High School around an estimated year span of 1985-1995. Hutchens graduated from the school in 1988.

“We have experienced deaths of some of our dearest friends and others who are just weeks/months away from leavingus,” Hutchens wrote in the letter. “One 40 year old male, who is in the end stage of ALS, will most likely be dead by the time you read this. This is just one more, not the first.”

Hutchens concedes that she is not fully certain whether those affected are simply handed bad luck, or if there is a link between the current investigation of cancer clusters in the metro region and what many of those her age are experiencing.

A 43-year-old Park Center Senior High School graduate who wished to remain unnamed for medical confidentiality, said she now suffers from fibromyalgia and had ovarian cysts to the extent that she had a total hysterectomy at the age of 28. She said she graduated from Park Center Senior High in 1988 and attended Brooklyn Junior High School before that. Her four sisters, who all attended the schools, all battle fibromyalgia despite no family history of the condition. She noted that one sister is currently battling scleroderma, an auto-immune disorder that attacks the skin, blood vessels, muscles and internal organs.

She said she had no idea what has caused her or her sisters’ medical problems, but expressed concern over the number of those in and around her graduating class and their rates of illness.

Hutchens also had a brother who was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the age of 30 and stage 3 colon cancer by the time he was 38.

“I have not heard of any other place that has this many people, of my age group, hit with this broad spectrum of disease and illness, as it is here,” Hutchens wrote.

“At the age that most of us are at now, the previous generation and the generation prior to that, did not have the ailments, diseases, syndromes, etc., along with the large number of people who have these illnesses,” she concluded.

Hutchens has vowed to continue collecting information on the illnesses for the next two weeks prior to releasing it.