Posts Tagged ‘Iron Range mine workers’

Minnesota researchers ‘making progress’ in mesothelioma study

19 Dec 2008 by Wendi Lewis under News, Research/Treatment

Researchers studying an unusually high incidence of mesothelioma among Iron Range miners and their families reported they are “making progress” as five-year program gets underway, according to the Star Tribune, which serves Minneapolis and St. Paul. The $4.9 million research program was funded by the Minnesota state legislature in April.

The program is being directed by the University of Minnesota. Researchers held an open meeting yesterday evening to share initial results. The program, which involves health screenings for residents of the Iron Range, particularly mine workers and their families, began in Summer 2007, but got a boost when the legislature approved the funding to expand the study significantly. The funding established the Minnesota Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership task force.

The Star Tribune reports that the program will expand in 2009 to include a respiratory health assessment of 1,200 active and retired miners, as well as 800 spouses or partners. Participants will be selected at random. Physical testing will be handled by the Virginia Regional Medical Center, and testing is exected to run for a period of about 6-9 months.

While mesothelioma is almost exclusively associated with asbestos, researchers are investigating whether or not there is a link between taconite dust – which is produced in the Iron Range mining process – and mesothelioma. To date 58 mesothelioma deaths have been linked to the Iron Range.

According to the Star Tribune report, there are four ongoing health studies associated with this project: a mortality study under the direction of the Minnesota Department of Health related to miner deaths; a cancer rate incidence study; a respiratory health assessment for miners or former miners; and an occupational exposure study. In addition, the paper reports two environmental studies are part of the process as well, under the direction of the Natural Resources and Research Institute the University of Minnesota Duluth. These will examine sediments in lake bottoms as well as airborne particle measurements.


Update on Minnesota mesothelioma study set for tonight

18 Dec 2008 by Wendi Lewis under Events, News, Research/Treatment

Researchers who have begun a five-year, $4.9 million study into an alarming number of mesothelioma cases in Minnesota will present a progress report tonight at the Mountain Iron Community Center. The study, which is operating under the direction of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, focuses in particular on Iron Range miners. The Minnesota legislature approved funds for the research project in April.

The study is the result of concern about a high rate of mesothelioma among Iron Range workers, with 59 identified cases to date. According to a report in the Duluth News Tribune, initial data indicates 17 miners who developed mesothelioma between 1988 and 1996. Then, in 2007, it was revealed that the Minnesota Department of Health had additional information about 35 more cases of mesothelioma among the mine workers.

Mesothelioma is thought to be caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, but the Minnesota study is examining the possibility of a link between exposure to the taconite dust released in the Iron Range mines, and mesothelioma. According to the News Tribune, researchers are conducting health screenings for miners and their spouses. They hope to screen about 2,000 people within six to nine months.

Tonight’s program will share initial findings and inform the public about the progress of health screenings, and opportunities for involvement in the screenings. It also will feature a presentation about the geological aspects of the Iron Range mine area.

If you’d like to attend, the meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Mountain Iron Community Center, at 8586 Enterprise Drive. The presentation should last about an hour.


$8 million asbestos study in Libby

19 Jun 2008 by Wendi Lewis under News, Research/Treatment

After years of ignoring the dangers of asbestos, and the resulting nationwide epidemic of asbestos disease, including mesothelioma, there is a renewed interest in studying this deadly material. This week, the Billings Gazette announced the federal government will fund an $8 million study to understand the health effects of low-level exposure to asbestos. The study will be based in Libby, Montana, where more than 200 people have died to date as a result of asbestos mining operations in the town, and hundreds more people suffer from asbestos related diseases.

The Libby program, dubbed the Libby Amphibole Health Risk Initiative, is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The study is expected to span 5 years with a goal of expanding knowledge about the potential and real health issues of asbestos exposure.

Libby already has proved a tragically rich source of knowledge about long-term exposure to high levels of asbestos, as the EPA’s initial examination and cleanup of the town focused on miners with direct exposure to the substance in their jobs, as well as people who handled asbestos mineral and were exposed to asbestos dust secondarily on a daily basis.

But, the Gazette reports, too little is know about exposure to lower levels of asbestos. EPA officials hope that results of the study will benefit not only the residents of Libby, but people throughout the country.

In April, the Minnesota state legislature approved $4.9 million for its own five-year study, to be conducted under the direction of the University of Minnesota, in connection with unusually high levels of mesothelioma affecting Iron Range mine workers. A large question in the area is whether dust from the taconite mined there – a fibrous mineral similar to asbestos – could also cause mesothelioma.

A key part of the Minnesota research will be an examination of previous asbestos exposure among mine workers, which will expand the base of knowledge about the affect of asbestos on health, in addition to the new studies about the effect of taconite.

According to the Billings Gazette, among tests to be included in the Libby study are a comparison of film and digital chest X-rays to determine which is best for assessing the lungs, a comparison of the health of people exposed to Libby asbestos in childhood versus people who weren’t, an expanded evaluation of Libby residents who were exposed to asbestos, an assessment of whether the health problems related to asbestos exposure extend beyond lung disease.

Researchers in Libby also hope to make improvements to public health tracking systems and patient health record databases, to better link exposure information to health conditions, the Gazette reports.

Gayla Benefield, perhaps one of the best-known residents of Libby for her early outcry about the health effects of asbestos on the people in her town, says she is happy to see an emphasis on research.

She was a charter member of the board of directors of the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD), a not-for-profit clinic governed by a volunteer community board and devoted to healthcare, outreach, and research to benefit all people impacted by exposure to Libby amphibole asbestos. She only recently retired from her position with that organization.

“This is something I’ve wanted from the onset – more study and more research,” she says. “I’ve been especially interested in how much or how little of the (asbestos) fiber can cause meso, and I’ve been really concerned about the schools having been contaminated.”

The key, Benefield says, is to detect mesothelioma at its earliest stage, when there is still time for treatment to prolong life. When people around her in Libby began being diagnosed, she says, their mesothelioma was so advanced that many died within days of the diagnosis.

“We all – everyone in Libby – live under the threat of developing mesothelioma,” she says. “They’re never going to get all that (asbestos) fiber out of Libby, or anywhere for that matter, homes with asbestos insulation, so the research is the big thing. Any and all research having to do with mesothelioma is fantastic. A dream come true.”


$4.9 million mesothelioma bill signed by Governor

29 Apr 2008 by Wendi Lewis under News, Research/Treatment

Monday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the bill that will provide $4.9 million for a mesothelioma research study. The bill unanimously passed the Senate, and passed by a vote of 121-1 in the House.
The 5-year study, which will be conducted under the direction of the University of Minnesota, will analyze death records and conduct screenings of current and former Iron Range mine workers and their families. The study will determine if there is a link between mesothelioma and the taconite fibers produced by the mine. To date, 58 Iron Range workers have died of mesothelioma.

The study also will include environmental research.

Funding for the program will come from a special insurance fund overseen by the Department of Commerce.


$4.9M mesothelioma bill past House, to Governor

24 Apr 2008 by Wendi Lewis under News

Today the passed the bill that will provide $4.9 million for a mesothelioma research study, by a vote of 121-1. The bill unanimously passed the Senate on Monday. It now goes to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is expected to sign it.

The study, which will be conducted under the direction of the University of Minnesota, will analyze death records and conduct screenings of current and former Iron Range mine workers and their families. To date, 58 Iron Range workers have died of mesothelioma. The study also will include environmental research, and is expected to last 5 years.

Funding for the program will come from a special insurance fund overseen by the Department of Commerce.


Minnesota proposes $4.6 million Meso study

6 Mar 2008 by Wendi Lewis under News, Organizations, Research/Treatment

I mentioned in my last post that a research partnership in Minnesota is using part of a $6 million grant for mesothelioma research. That was announced yesterday.

This morning, WorkDay Minnesota published a series of stories about another quest for mesothelioma research in the state. Unrelated to the first grant, a committee has approved legislation to allocate $4.9 million – to come from the state’s worker’s compensation special fund in fiscal year 2008 – for a special study of Iron Range mine workers’ deaths due to mesothelioma.

Inforum News writer Scott Wente reported today that the Minnesota Health Department in 2007 linked the deaths of 58 mining industry workers to mesothelioma. The University of Minnesota plans four studies related to the mesothelioma cases and other health issues for taconite industry employees and communities, according to the Inforum News story. Data points to an abnormally high rate of the cancer among the mine workers.

WorkDay Minnesota reports that in 2007, the state Department of Health announced that 35 miners, in addition to 17 previously identified, had died from mesothelioma. The number currently stands at 58 mesothelioma deaths.

The legislation for the funding must go through another House committee before getting to the floor, and the Senate has not yet held a hearing on the bill. If approved, the funding would direct the University of Minnesota to initiate a study this year and complete work by 2013.

The university’s School of Public Health will spearhead the project and already has set up a toll-free nurse helpline for questions on taconite worker lung health (1-888-840-7590) and launched a special website.

In the meantime, WorkDay Minnesota says that Friday the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration issued new rules that increase protections for miners who may be exposed to asbestos.