Lawmakers and State Health Department Consider Mesothelioma Rates in Minnesota Iron Range

Iron Range Miners Have Disproportionately High Cancer Rates Compared to rest of Minnesota

ST PAUL, MN - April 20, 2007 - Two committees of the Minnesota House met this week to hear testimony about the high rate of the cancer mesothelioma among iron miners in the northeastern part of the state known as the Iron Range. Since 1998, there have been 52 cases of mesothelioma among these workers, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). These figures are much higher than in other parts of Minnesota. Iron miners have also suffered disproportionately from other cancers and lung ailments.

Mesothelioma is almost always the result of exposure to asbestos, although patients typically do not develop the disease until decades after initial contact with the substance. Once mesothelioma is diagnosed, it progresses rapidly. Although the disease is not curable, there are treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy that may reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life.

Rep. Karen Clark (DFL, Minneapolis) introduced a provision in a state public health bill that would require the MDH to track the occupational history of cancer victims, including those with mesothelioma. She laments that this information is not tracked very well in the United States or followed at all in Minnesota (Minnesota Public Radio, April 17, 2007).

MDH Proposes Studies About Minnesota Asbestos Exposure

The MDH is now requesting federal funding for two new studies. One study would compare the everyday tasks and job descriptions of iron workers who developed mesothelioma with those of iron workers who did not develop the cancer. A second study would examine airborne fragments and dust from taconite, an ore containing silica and iron that is used to make iron pellets that are then melted down into steel. Iron miners are exposed to large amounts of taconite dust, which may be contaminated with asbestos. They may also be exposed to asbestos through other job duties such as repairing asbestos-containing insulation.

Sadly, these studies come too late for a group of retirees from the LTV iron mine in Eveleth who meet at the union hall. "Nobody ever told us that you've got to be careful and watch out for this thing called asbestos," said Dave Trach, a former iron miner who runs the retirement group (Minnesota Public Radio, April 5, 2007). He said that a third of the retirees have some sort of lung problem.

Asbestos Cancer and Your Legal Rights

For more information about mesothelioma, see our sections on mesothelioma treatment and mesothelioma diagnosis. With our main office located in California, mesothelioma attorneys at Brayton Purcell have been extensively involved in protecting the legal rights of asbestos victims, including injured workers and their families for over 24 years. Many of our clients suffer from asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases. We will provide a free evaluation of your potential case if you have been exposed to asbestos and think you may have developed an asbestos-related disease.