New Analysis Provides Additional Information about Miners Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
Source: Minnesota Department of Health
58 taconite miners who worked in Minnesota’s Iron Range from the 1930s through the 1980s have been diagnosed with mesothelioma—a figure much higher than would be expected—as taconite is not considered as carcinogenic a mineral as asbestos is and whose relationship to mesothelioma is even more nebulous. In response to these diagnoses, the State’s Department of Health is embarking on a series of health studies in partnership with the University of Minnesota to study the conditions that have contributed to these illnesses.
The state has released a preliminary report regarding incidence rates and exposure factors that establishes the baseline figures that the future reports will draw from. In its press release regarding the report, the Department of Health states:
- Almost one-fourth of the 58 workers were employed in the industry for less than one year, while over a fourth were employed for 30 years or more.
- All but one of the miners who developed mesothelioma were diagnosed 30 years or more after they first went to work in the industry. In five of the cases, the time lag was 60 years or longer.
- The miners worked at locations scattered across the Iron Range, including all but one of the seven mining operations that were active during the period when they were employed. The exception—Inland Steel—employed only 618 of the 72,000 miners in the group being followed by MDH.
- Only three of the 58 miners ever worked at the former Conwed plant in Cloquet, which manufactured asbestos ceiling tiles between 1958 and 1974. The Conwed facility is believed to have contributed significantly to elevated mesothelioma rates in northeastern Minnesota, accounting for 25 cases of the illness among the 5,200 people who worked there.
Miners and their families are hoping the present and future studies will definitively establish the causes of the disease in these miners and that steps will be taken to better protect them.