The high mesothelioma cancer rate among Minnesota taconite workers has presented a puzzle to researchers. These miners are nicknamed Iron Rangers, and they quarried taconite, a flint-like iron-bearing sedimentary rock. The mineral has been mined and processed in Minnesota since the 1950s.
In recent years, says an article in the Twin Cities, some 82 of the Iron Rangers have died of mesothelioma. This is an incurable asbestos cancer, with a latency period of up to 40 years between exposure and the onset of symptoms. Understandably, pinpointing the exact point of asbestos exposure can be challenging.
But there may be some answers for the Iron Rangers, in the wings. Since 2008, University of Minnesota researchers have been studying the case histories of some 46,000 miners, born since 1920. Research has demonstrated that compared to the rest of the state’s population, the miners saw:
- A 300 percent higher rate of mesothelioma
- A 20 percent higher rate of lung cancer
- An 11 percent higher rate of heart disease
But the reason for these elevated rates has eluded the study’s researchers. Some of them admitted in June that they may never directly connect the mesothelioma rate with taconite mining. The problem: they couldn’t find traditional asbestos fibers at work here. Potentially, claimed the scientists, the exposure came from handling asbestos molds or insulation while working in taconite plants.
On the other hand, some Rangers believe that the mesothelioma derives from rock minerals released during the mining and processing of the taconite pellets. However, the researchers also suggest the exposure might have occurred while working at other jobsites, in asbestos-heavy industries such as shipbuilding and construction. It could also have happened during U.S. Navy service.
Researchers will explain the study’s conclusions at a public meeting on April 12.
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation. A successful mesothelioma lawsuit can help pay medical bills and other expenses. Contact the experienced mesothelioma attorneys at Sokolove Law to get a free case evaluation today.