Minnesota mesothelioma study to begin testing taconite miners

Last year, we reported on the establishment of a mesothelioma research project in Minnesota, which is examining the possible link between taconite mining and mesothelioma. The five-year research program received $4.9 million in funding from the Minnesota state legislature in April 2008, and is being directed by the University of Minnesota in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health.

This week, university researchers announced they are ready to begin recruiting current and former taconite workers on Minnesota’s Iron Range, and their spouses, to participate in a screening program.

Preliminary research actually began in Summer 2007, but got a boost from the legislature’s funding, allowing the study to expand significantly. The funding established the Minnesota Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership task force.

There are four health studies associated with the project:
a motality study under the direction of the Minnesota Department of Health related to miner deathsa cancer rate incidence studya respiratory health assessment for miners or former minersan occupational exposure study
According to an update in the Star Tribune, which serves the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, “since last year, researchers have been collecting data they need to determine why Iron Range miners die from mesothelioma at higher rates than others.”

Researchers hope to recruit around 1,200 current and retired workers for the new screenings, plus about 800 of their spouses.

Mesothelioma has been linked exclusively to asbestos exposure, so this study seeks to determine what similarities may exist in the taconite mining industry and the taconite mineral that produce high incidences of mesothelioma among its workers.

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