Posts Tagged ‘taconite’

Minnesota researchers ‘making progress’ in mesothelioma study

19 Dec 2008 by 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 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 under Events, News, Research/Treatment

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

After years of ignoring the dangers of asbestos, and the resulting nationwide epidemic of asbestos disease, including , 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 , 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.”

Mesothelioma claims 59th Iron Range miner

17 Jun 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

The Minnesota Department of Health reported this week that a 59th case of mesothelioma was identified in an 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 . 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 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.

Minnesota examines taconite meso danger

12 Jun 2008 by under News

In its last legislative session, Minnesota approved $4.9 million for research into the mesothelioma epidemic among its Iron Range workers. To date, 58 people have died of mesothelioma. Governor signed the bill, which funds a five-year study of the taconite mining industry and the mineral’s asbestos-like properties as a likely cause for the extremely high rate of mesothelioma among workers.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that researchers and politicians will meet today to discuss progress in establishing the study. According to the report, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health is assessing the health of active and retired miners, reviewing death certificates, and delving into the 58 deaths from mesothelioma. The Natural Resources Research Institute is analyzing iron ore samples and dust in the air in Iron Range communities, to see how closely they match asbestos dust, says MPR.

According to the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota web site, the industry’s six iron mining and processing operations produce two-thirds of the iron ore used to make steel in the United States. Combined, they represent a $4 billion capital investment and employ nearly 4,000 men and women. These companies contribute over $1.5 billion each year to the state’s economy in the form of purchases, wages and benefits, royalties and taxes.These companies contribute over $1.5 billion each year to the state’s economy in the form of purchases, wages and benefits, royalties and taxes.

Taconite is an extremely hard rock that contains about 25 percent iron, according to an IMA fact sheet. It is found on the Mesabi Range in northeastern Minnesota, which extends 110 miles in a southwesterly direction. After World War II, when natural high-quality iron ore deposits were beginning to be depleted, two companies began making major investments in taconite, and began producing pellets in 1956 and 1957, and a decade later taconite was in production in all of the area’s six mines.

To date, Minnesota mines have produced more than 1.2 billion tons of taconite pellets, IMA reports.

Information about taconite on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site says “taconite saved Minnesota’s iron ore mining industry.”

How heartbreaking that Minnesotans are only now finding out the cost.

$4.9 million mesothelioma bill signed by Governor

29 Apr 2008 by 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 and their families. The study will determine if there is a link between mesothelioma and the 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 research bill passes Senate

22 Apr 2008 by under News

The Minnesota Senate voted unanimously Monday to pass a bill that would provide $4.9 million for research. More than 58 Iron Range miners have died from or other asbestos-related diseases. The money will fund a 5-year research study of the taconite miners and their families, to be directed by the University of Minnesota.

The bill now goes to the House, where a vote is expected Wednesday. If the bill passes the House, it will go to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is expected to approve it.

Originally, there was some dispute about the bill due to its funding source, but an amendment in the Senate resolved that issue. The money will come from a Department of Commerce fund that is reported to be operating with a surplus.

$4.9 million mesothelioma research bill advances

18 Apr 2008 by under Events, News, Research/Treatment

A compromise has been reached in the Minnesota legislature over funding for a mesothelioma research study. MyMeso has been following the progress of a bill in the Minnesota House that would provide $4.9 million to fund a study of mesothelioma and disease in the state’s Iron Range miners. More than 58 taconite miners have died from mesothelioma or other disease.

There was some controversy over the source of the funding when the bill was introduced in the House. Gov. Tim Pawlenty objected to the proposed funding source, a special state worker’s compensation fund, fearing it would raise premium costs for businesses that use the fund. The governor had threatened to veto the bill unless an alternate funding source was established.

An amendment proposed by the Minnesota Senate yesterday afternoon would fund the bill from a Department of Commerce fund, which is an “assigned risk” worker’s compensation fund.

The money will fund a five-year research project headed up by the University of Minnesota, which will review the health of miners and spouses, study the health records and occupations of miners who died and analyze the air quality in and around the mining communities.

The Senate has indicated support of the revised bill, with a final vote expected early next week. It will then move back to the House, where it also is expected to be met favorably.

According to, a Pawlenty spokesman said the governor supports the amended bill and “believes it’s very important that this study moves forward.”

Minnesota meso funding moving in Senate

26 Mar 2008 by under News, Organizations, Research/Treatment

The Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minn., reported yesterday that a Minnesota Senate committee is backing the proposed $4.7 million to be designated for mesothelioma research. The rare cancer has been reported in an unusually high number of cases in northeastern Minnesota, in association with a taconite mine.

The state Health Department in Minnesota has documented close to 60 deaths from mesothelioma in the Iron Range mining area.

According to the story published by The Globe, “The dean of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health [Professor , Jr.] is calling it ‘the best shot we’ve had in 25 years’ to find answers about a lung cancer that might be connected to mining taconite.”

If approved by the Minnesota legislature, the money would fund a combined study led by the University of Minnesota and including state health, natural resources and pollution control officials. The study would take about five years to conclude.

The Globe reports that the Senate bill has at least one more committee stop, and a House plan is also progressing. It says the plan faces some opposition from the business lobby, which is taking issue with the reliance on a workers compensation fund to pay for the research.

More news from Minnesota

10 Mar 2008 by under News, Organizations

Last week I talked about an area in northeastern Minnesota called the , where health officials have identified unusually high numbers of mesothelioma cases. The is a mining area.

The report, which was published by WorkDay Minnesota, noted that 58 people in that area have died from mesothelioma. As a result, the Minnesota legislature is proposing a special meso study in cooperation with the University of Minnesota.

On March 6, the Duluth News Tribune published an article about a related air-quality issue in Silver Bay, Minn. The Tribune reports the Sierra Club and Save Lake Superior Association are pursuing a lawsuit upholding the air standard that compares fiber levels near Silver Bay to the air in St. Paul, Minn.

The report notes that asbestos-like fibers have been found in the ore mined on the eastern Iron Range, which is processed into taconite by Northshore Mining Co. in Silver Bay.

The Tribune says the environmental groups report violations of the control city air standard, with Silver Bay air showing higher asbestos levels than St. Paul air.