University of Minnesota researchers made a call in mid-September for more participants in its study of a possible link between Iron Range taconite mines and mesothelioma. The five-year reserach program received $4.9 million in funding from the Minnesota state legislature in April 2008, and is being directed by the university in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health.
The study was conceived as a result of an unusually high incidence of mesothelioma in taconite mine workers. Mesothelioma is currently linked exclusively to asbestos exposure. To day, more than 58 Iron Range mine workers have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
In July, researchers began health screenings of former taconite workers and their families. To date, a little more than 100 people have participated in the screenings, although reserachers hope to examine around 1,200 people during the course of the study.
The call for more participants apparently raised some concerns among area residents about the program’s success. However, a report by KQDS Fox 21 News assures the public that the study is progressing as planned, and that the call for more participants is a natural part of the process.
The news report quotes Nancy Tekautz, who is a field supervisor for the taconite workers respiratory health study, as saying her clinic is nearly booked. “We believe the response has been very good and we just want to encourage it to continue,” she told KQDS.
KXMB News reports study director Dr. Jeffrey Mandel has sent about 300 letters to a random sampling of current and former Iron Range taconite workers, asking them to participate in the study. Participants will provide a medical and occupational history and submit to simple medical tests.
Researchers assure miners and their families that all study participants and individual medical information will remain confidential. For more information, visit the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study web site, or call the University of Minnesota toll free at 1-888-840-7590.