A public meeting has been scheduled for April 12, 2013, to discuss findings of the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study. The study was established to determine the causes of an unusually high number of cases of mesothelioma among taconite mine workers.
The five-year research program was established in 2008 with $4.9 million in funding from the Minnesota state legislature. The project is a cooperative research initiative of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, and the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Preliminary research actually began in Summer 2007, but got a boost from the legislature’s funding, allowing the program to expand significantly. Components of the study include:
- Occupational Exposure Assessment
- Mortality (cause of death) Study
- Incidence Studies
- Respiratory Health Survey of Taconite Workers and Spouses
- Environmental Study of Airborne Particulates
The link between mesothelioma and taconite mining is particularly concerning, as previously mesothelioma was thought to be almost exclusively related to exposure to asbestos. Taconite is a variety of iron formation, an iron-bearing rock. Iron is layered in this rock with other minerals such as quartz or carbonate. The area of Minnesota where taconite is mined is known as the Iron Range.
According to its website, the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study seeks to “determine the extent to which employment in the taconite industry and exposure to dust from the taconite industry affects the health of workers with specific emphasis on respiratory diseases and diseases associated with silica and asbestos exposure.” The study also examines the risk of secondary exposure to those associated with mine workers, such as spouses and family members.
The public meeting is presented by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the Minnesota Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership. It will provide an update on research. The meeting is set for Friday, April 12, 2013, at 3 p.m. It will be held at the Mountain Iron Community Center, located at 8586 Enterprise Drive, S; Mountain Iron, MN. Additional information is available online.