The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Monday that asbestos is present in a rock sample taken from the proposed site of an iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The asbestoform fibers were found in the mineral grunerite. Asbestos and asbestoform fibers present a danger to public health if they are inhaled or ingested, which may result in the development of mesothelioma. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘University of Minnesota’
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…)
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.
Pictured above are processed taconite pellets. Source: Wikipedia
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.
This week, university researchers announced they are ready to begin recruiting current and former taconite workers on Minnesota’s Iron Range, and their spouses, to participate in a screening program.
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.
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.
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 Tim Pawlenty 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.