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Mesothelioma deaths increase among taconite miners

| Oct 19, 2011 | Workers' Compensation |

As part of a long-term study on the effects of asbestos exposure on taconite miners and residents of cities near the mining range, researchers recently increased the number of mesothelioma deaths from 63 to 82. The increase is due to a check of the death records in other states, health officials say.

The study is a five-year, in-depth look at workers in the taconite mines of northern Minnesota, in an area of the state known as the Iron Range. According to Dr. Jeffrey Mandel, a lead researcher in the study, said that the study results thus far indicate that the mesothelioma rate is “considerably higher than it should be” in the area. The study is being funded by a nearly $5 million grant from the state government.

Earlier reports into the high mesothelioma rate in the Iron Range hypothesized that common methods of asbestos exposure, such as pipe insulation and furnaces, were responsible for the outbreak. However, the current study is researching whether asbestos-like fibers in taconite rock that are released during the rocks’ processing is exposing mine workers and area residents to asbestos and causing the increased rates of death due to mesothelioma in the region.

Approximately 80,000 workers have been employed at one of the Iron Range mines since mining began in the late 1800s. However, researchers are looking most closely at the 46,000 people who have worked with taconite, which was first mined in Minnesota in the 1950s.

The study is projected to conclude sometime next year, but researchers say they will release any information as soon as possible. We will continue to update our blog with any new developments.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, “More Iron Range mesothelioma deaths found,” John Myers, Oct. 18, 2011

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