Unusually high numbers of mesothelioma cases occur in Minnesota miners who work in the taconite industry. In 2008, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health launched the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study to explore a possible link between this type of mining and mesothelioma, as well as other health risks. It released the final report on December 1.
The study, led by School of Public Health professor and physician Dr. Jeffrey Mandel, looked at taconite workers’ exposures to very small, needle-like fibers called elongate mineral particles (EMPs) and other common workplace exposures to dusts from taconite operations to see if lung diseases in miners were related to these dusts.
Among the findings are:
Among its recommendations, the study urges that industry conduct comprehensive exposure assessment and monitoring; Minnesota’s cancer surveillance system (MCSS) update the study cohort’s mesothelioma and lung cancer listing periodically; companies, unions, and communities make efforts to control known risk factors for cardiovascular disease; and consideration be given to mandatory use of PPE in high-exposure circumstances.
“We gained valuable perspectives through this research,” said Dr. Mandel. “The recommendations we made are intended to further improve the understanding of disease in taconite miners.”