Taconite mining has been part of Minnesota’s landscape for decades, providing a livelihood for thousands of people, on the Iron Range and the North Shore. But taconite mining appears to have another legacy, called mesothelioma.
In 2007, the Minnesota legislature funded a 4.9 million health study of taconite mining industry workers in northeastern Minnesota. The study is in response to data showing a high incidence of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure in the dust from taconite mining activities.
The study is being led by the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. It’s called the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study and about 1500 people have taken part so far at the Virginia Regional Medical Center on Minnesota’s Iron Range. Researchers are trying to expand the geographical reach of the study and will be offering testing in Silver Bay beginning Sept. 20.
Silver Bay has had a taconite pellet processing and shipping facility since the 1950’s that is still in operation today. An informational meeting is being held at the Silver Bay Recreation Building at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 31. The meeting is open to the public, however; only those who have been specifically invited may participate in the study.
The study has several components, one of which is a respiratory health survey of current and former taconite industry workers and their spouses. The purpose of the examinations is to determine whether workers are at risk for other lung conditions that may be related to dust exposure from mining activities. These ailments can often be managed if caught early and are much more common than mesothelioma.
More information about the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study is available on the University of Minnesota website
. For questions about the worker’s health survey, call 888-840-7590.