Minnesota Study Shows Increased Mesothelioma Risk for Taconite Workers

Taconite miners, those involved in the iron ore industry, have a minimal risk of developing mesothelioma — although the risk increases by three percent with each additional year in the industry, according to a Minnesota study.

Earlier this month, a correlation between iron ore mining and mesothelioma was found, prompting researchers to “dig deeper” (pun intended) and look for further indications of a dangerous trend.

The University of Minnesota received a $5 million state grant to study iron ore workers as well as former iron mining workers who contracted mesothelioma. The goal of the study, according to the Minnesota State grant, was to “determine whether employment in the taconite industry, and more specifically exposure to dust from taconite mining and processing, is related to developing certain diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or other non-malignant respiratory diseases” (Nancy Meredith, “Study Finds Taconite Workers at Risk of Developing Mesothelioma”).

The results of the study, gathered by way of 2,000 living miners and their families as well as deceased minors, shows that, despite the lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma (which increases year by year), “the increase equates to a small risk of actually developing the disease.” As for secondhand mesothelioma contraction, the study found that mesothelioma contraction was limited only to iron ore workers and not their spouses or families. As with typical mesothelioma, elongated mineral particles (or EMPs) play a role in miners developing not only mesothelioma but also lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

Studies such as these are useful to help determine whether or not occupations have a direct effect on mesothelioma contraction. It has been said in days gone by that certain occupations make one prone to mesothelioma contraction. If an individual works in home construction, asbestos removal, oil, mining, shipyard, and other services, then he or she is more likely to develop mesothelioma. Recent medical news, however, shows that even nurses (for example) can develop mesothelioma. One nurse, now 69, has developed mesothelioma and wants to discover whether or not the hospitals in which she worked had asbestos on-site.

Occupations can make one more likely to develop the cancer, but there are other factors at play as well. Lung cancer, for example, is contracted by patients who have never smoked (smoking increases the possibility of lung cancer), and other forms of cancer are developed by those who aim to eat smart (organic foods) and shun process foods. Genetics are a factor, and many develop cancer, even in the face of physical fitness and healthy living.

For workers in the Minnesota Iron Range Taconite Mine, at least, there is a bit of relief — not only for themselves, but their families.

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