Minnesota study of Iron Range workers continues

A recent report on WDIO-DT and WIRT-DT ABC stations 10 and 13 says approximately 1,000 Iron Range miners and their families have been screened as part of an ongoing study into the link between taconite mining and mesothelioma. The study is being directed by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health, and funded by the Minnesota State Legislature, which allocated $4.9 million to the project in April 2008.

An investigation into the link between taconite mining – which takes place in what is known as Minnesota’s Iron Range – began when state health officials noted an unusually high incidence of mesothelioma occurring in taconite mine workers. Mesothelioma is traditionally linked only to asbestos exposure. There is a theory that the taconite mineral may contain similar fibers to asbestos mineral.

Researchers began screening workers and their immediate family members in July. According to the news report, researchers say the study is on track. They would like to see about another 1,000 people, however. Analysis of the respiratory is estimated to take another 18 months.

This screening is one part of the comprehensive five-year study. There are four health studies associated with the project, including a mortality study under the direction of the Minnesota Department of Health and related to miner deaths; a cancer rate incidence study; a respiratory health assessment for miners or former miners (and expanded to include spouses or other close family that may have had secondary exposure to taconite dust), and an occupational exposure study.

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