An ongoing study on Minnesota miners affirms the sad truth about mesothelioma; it is often incredibly hard, if not impossible, to trace back to a source. The Minnesota study is helpful because it teaches patients, doctors, and experienced mesothelioma attorneys, what may or may not be a source of asbestos exposure.
Abnormally high rates of reported asbestos deaths first prompted the Minnesota Legislature to commission the study in 2008. Study subjects all lived in the Iron Range, an area known for its sizable taconite mining industry. The study focused on about 46,000 individuals who worked in the taconite industry from 1920 to present.
Five different subcategories of testing were used to gather the data. The study examined: the types of occupational exposure, the existence of a link between exposure in mining and asbestos related cancer, the levels of death from asbestos cancers, the overall respiratory health of miners and spouses, and the environmental air quality on the jobsite and in nearby areas.
Since 2008, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health has worked to gather data on all sub-areas of their test. Data gathered will be used to construct a comprehensive picture of why miners are dying at a high rate. Or at least miners hope the data can tell them what is causing more deaths.
Recent updates on the data compilation and analysis show that researchers are unsure they will be able to find a link to comprehensively explain the Iron Range deaths. Initially researchers thought that mineral fibers very similar to asbestos may be the cause of mesothelioma among miners.
When data did not appear to support that hypothesis, researchers then turned
to the ‘asbestos like fibers’ of minerals. The fibers may
have been released from mine materials during the course of mining operations.
Researchers now refer to the fibers as elongated mineral particles. Because
analysis of the data is ongoing, researches do not know yet whether or
not the fibers lead to mesothelioma.
At this point researchers have openly admitted that they may never find a link between the high prevalence of mesothelioma and mining in the Iron Range. A major concern may lie in the fact that many of these workers also could have been exposed years and years earlier in Navy Service or at other jobs. Despite concerns about the existence of a traceable link to explain the mesothelioma, researchers remain optimistic that there are things to be learned from further data analysis.
Miners are also waiting with baited breath to understand why so many of their companions suffer from mesothelioma. Some workers believe mine dust plays a major role in asbestos related cancers. Whatever the explanation may be, preventable or not, it would be a nice piece of mind for workers to at least put a face to the silent mysterious mesothelioma killer.
So far, data shows that the rate of mesothelioma in the Iron Range is 300% greater than it is in the rest of the state. Clinical test results also show that mine workers overall health is worse than that of the general public. In addition to mesothelioma, 20% more mine workers have lung cancers, and about 11% more have heart disease compared to the public. Lung cancer and heart disease could be from any number of things and the study will not address the causation of these particular ailments.
Overall, the most beneficial aspect of the $5 million dollar multi-year study may be the ability to rule out some different sources of mesothelioma. After study results are finalized, anyone involved with mining or mesothelioma will have a clearer picture of where mesothelioma might come from. If it is proven that the mines do not cause mesothelioma, current and future workers can rest at ease.
As for people who have worked in different industries before mining, they can at least narrow the scope of places they may have contracted mesothelioma. If you or a loved one suffers from asbestos related cancer you should contact an asbestos attorney today to learn about getting compensation from the party responsible for your injuries.