More cases surface in taconite studyFour new cases of asbestos-related cancer will be included in University of Minnesota’s Taconite Workers Health Study.
Four new cases of asbestos-related cancer will be included in University of Minnesota’s Taconite Workers Health Study.
As part of its ongoing participation with a University of Minnesota study of respiratory health issues in Minnesota taconite workers, the Minnesota Department of Health has identified four additional cases of mesothelioma in a group of 69,000 people who worked in the state’s iron mining industry between the 1930s and 1982.
Mesothelioma is a rare, fatal form of cancer seen almost exclusively in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Health officials say it’s not surprising to see additional reports of the illness among workers, since it can take as long as 40 or 50 years to develop mesothelioma following exposure. They expected to find additional cases as the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study proceeds.
The four new cases bring the total number of workers diagnosed to 63. MDH officials learned about the new cases as they reviewed information about the workers from the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System. The new data are part of the entire cancer profile of taconite workers that will be used by researchers at the university’s School of Public Health who are conducting the Taconite Workers Health Study, a legislatively authorized and funded study signed into law in 2008.
“It is important that we find answers to the many long-standing questions about the relationship between taconite mining and respiratory health,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Sanne Magnan. “The Minnesota Department of Health will continue working with the University of Minnesota to complete this important research.”
The Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study consists of five interrelated studies: Occupational Exposure Assessment, Mortality (cause of death) Study, Cancer Incidence Study, Respiratory Health Survey of Taconite Workers and Spouses, and Environmental Study of Airborne Particulates. In addition to investigating the excess cases of mesothelioma among taconite workers, these studies will look more broadly at a range of respiratory diseases and diseases associated with silica and asbestos exposure. The goal is to determine the relationship between working in the taconite industry and health issues, especially lung health.
“Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health are making pro-gress across the various projects, thanks to broad community support and engagement,” said John R. Finne-gan, Jr., dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “Today, we continue to collect and analyze data, but over the next couple of years, we look forward to sharing our results.”
One key component of the university’s study is a respiratory health survey of taconite workers and their spouses. The university is hoping to evaluate the respiratory health of 1,200 current and former taconite workers and up to 800 spouses. The survey includes spouses because they may have been exposed to dust brought home on workers’ clothing. People who have questions about the survey or are interested in participating in the survey should call the University of Minnesota, toll free at (888) 840-7590.