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Researchers revise mesothelioma death rate among taconite miners

Earlier this week, University of Minnesota researchers presented the Minnesota state legislature with an update on their ongoing research into the number of mesothelioma deaths in taconite miners and residents of cities near the mining ranges in northern Minnesota.

Interestingly, the number of fatalities attributed to mesothelioma declined from the previous estimate, which we discussed in an earlier asbestos blog post. However, researchers will continue to investigate the high rate of mesothelioma fatalities in taconite miners, with more results scheduled to be presented to the legislature next fall.

The study is a five-year, in-depth look at taconite mine workers in the Iron Range area of northern Minnesota. Specifically, the study is looking at the approximately 45,000 people born on or after 1920 who have worked in the taconite industry.

Initially, researchers estimated that 63 members of that group had died of mesothelioma. They revised that number to 82 last fall, and just adjusted it once again to 80. According to Dr. Jeffrey Mandel, the lead researcher in the study, the downward adjustment was due to two duplicate death records.

Despite the decrease, however, the percentage of taconite workers and people who lived near taconite mines that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma remains higher than the rate among the general population, and researchers are working to figure out why. "We're particularly trying to see if there's a relationship between working in the taconite industry and having a risk for mesothelioma or lung cancer," Dr. Mandel told local media.

Now, researchers are looking for links between specific working conditions in the taconite mines and higher rates of the disease, with additional results due to be reported by the end of the year.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, "Researchers update number of mesothelioma deaths among Iron Range workers," Dan Kraker, Mar. 1, 2012

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