The results of a five-year, $4.9-million study into the link between taconite mining in Minnesota’s Iron Range and mesothelioma provided a mixed bag of results. Scientists confirmed a definite link between the taconite industry and an increased risk of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that has previously been associated exclusively with asbestos exposure. But the study does not adequately answer the question of “why” or “how.” (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘taconite’
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. (more…)
This week the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) alerted me through a link on their web site to an update in the ongoing mesothelioma study in Minnesota. We have been following this study, which is investigating the high incidence of mesothelioma among Iron Range miners in that state. According to a report in the Duluth News Tribune, the study has identified four new cases of mesothelioma.
The five-year study is being directed by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health, and funded by a $4.9 million grant from the Minnestoa state legislature. The new cases bring the total number of former miners diagnosed with mesothelioma to 63.
Mesothelioma has traditionally been linked exclusively to asbestos. However, an investigation into the link between taconite mining – which takes place in what is known as Minnesota’s Iron Range, – began when state health officials noted an unusually high incidence of mesothelioma occurring in taconite mine workers. Mesothelioma occurs at twice the expected rate in the Iron Range.
As part of the study, researchers are screening workers and their immediate families. To date, they have interviewed about 1,000 people, and would like to double that number.
Taconite is an iron-bearing, flint-like rock. Processed taconite pellets are used in the steel making industry. To process taconite, the ore is ground into a fine powder, the iron is separated from the waste rock using strong magnets and the powdered iron concentrate is combined with bentonite clay and limestone and rolled into pellets. The Mesabi Iron Range region of Minnesota is a major taconite production area.
More information is available at the project’s official web site for Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study.
A recent report on WDIO-DT and WIRT-DT ABC stations 10 and 13 says approximately 1,000 Iron Range miners and their families have been screened as part of an ongoing study into the link between taconite mining and mesothelioma. The study is being directed by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health, and funded by the Minnesota State Legislature, which allocated $4.9 million to the project in April 2008.
An investigation into the link between taconite mining – which takes place in what is known as Minnesota’s Iron Range – began when state health officials noted an unusually high incidence of mesothelioma occurring in taconite mine workers. Mesothelioma is traditionally linked only to asbestos exposure. There is a theory that the taconite mineral may contain similar fibers to asbestos mineral.
Researchers began screening workers and their immediate family members in July. According to the news report, researchers say the study is on track. They would like to see about another 1,000 people, however. Analysis of the respiratory is estimated to take another 18 months.
This screening is one part of the comprehensive five-year study. There are four health studies associated with the project, including a mortality study under the direction of the Minnesota Department of Health and related to miner deaths; a cancer rate incidence study; a respiratory health assessment for miners or former miners (and expanded to include spouses or other close family that may have had secondary exposure to taconite dust), and an occupational exposure study.
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.
Last year, we reported on the establishment of a mesothelioma research project in Minnesota, which is examining the possible link between taconite mining and mesothelioma. The five-year research program received $4.9 million in funding from the Minnesota state legislature in April 2008, and is being directed by the University of Minnesota in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Preliminary research actually began in Summer 2007, but got a boost from the legislature’s funding, allowing the study to expand significantly. The funding established the Minnesota Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership task force.
There are four health studies associated with the project:
- a motality 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
- an occupational exposure study
According to an update in the Star Tribune, which serves the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, “since last year, researchers have been collecting data they need to determine why Iron Range miners die from mesothelioma at higher rates than others.”
Researchers hope to recruit around 1,200 current and retired workers for the new screenings, plus about 800 of their spouses.
Mesothelioma has been linked exclusively to asbestos exposure, so this study seeks to determine what similarities may exist in the taconite mining industry and the taconite mineral that produce high incidences of mesothelioma among its workers.
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.
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.
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.”
The Minnesota Department of Health reported this week that a 59th case of mesothelioma was identified in an Iron Range mine worker. This is the latest bad news in an ongoing examination of unusually high rates of mesothelioma among the miners. The state government recently approved $4.9 million to study the situation.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, the news of the latest mesothelioma diagnosis was discovered as the result of a comparison study done by the Minnesota Department of Health, comparing 72,000 Iron Range miners against the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System, which is the state’s cancer registry. The paper reports Health Department spokesperson Buddy Ferguson was unable to provide details about the 59th miner diagnosed, including whether or not this case of mesothelioma had resulted in an additional death.
A focus of the five-year study, which is under the direction of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, is to determine if there is a relationship between mesothelioma and the dust from taconite mining that is a central part of the Iron Range mine operation. Currently, mesothelioma is known only to be linked to asbestos. Because of the long latency period of the disease, usually between 20 and 50 years, it is uncertain whether the mesothelioma cases could be caused by previous asbestos exposure on the part of affected individuals, or taconite dust, or both.
Minnesota Public Radio reported in June 2007 that the Department of Health had conducted a study in 2003 when it found 17 cases of mesothelioma among Iron Range workers, and determined that 14 of the 17 cases had previous exposure to asbestos as well as taconite dust. Between 2003 and 2007, an additional 35 miners were diagnosed with mesothelioma.
According to WDIO-DT and WIRT-DT, ABC affiliates channels 10 and 13 serving the Northland area, approximately 1,200 current and former Iron Range miners will undergo random respiratory and health screenings, beginning next summer, as part of the study. The station reports that this summer researchers will begin analyzing old health studies, and doctors will examine current asbestos exposure controls.
The research study group has been named the Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership. Read more about the project at its web site.