U of MN Taconite Workers Health Study Interim Results Released

Minnesota’s Iron Range has long been the subject of discussion and debate surrounding the potential health risks from  taconite mining and processing – from the landmark 1970’s Reserve Mining case (which ultimately banned the dumping of “asbestos-like” minerals found in taconite tailings into Lake Superior) to the state’s DOH studies earlier in this decade linking the region’s increased levels of mesothelioma to the commercial asbestos found in taconite processing plants. 

On April 12, 2013, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the Minnesota Taconite Workers Lung Health Partnership held a public meeting to discuss interim findings of a highly-anticipated five year, nearly $5 million dollar study on taconite worker health issues. These and subsequent findings may have widespread implications for the state’s economy and workers health policies – not to mention the strategies undertaken by both defense and plaintiff’s attorneys in asbestos litigation nationwide.

According to the interim report, researchers could not definitively link taconite dust to mesothelioma and other lung diseases, but did find that the longer a worker was on the job, the greater the risk. They stated that although dust particulates found in the mining operations are within federal guidelines, the “elongated mineral particles” or EMPs in taconite dust are smaller than what the government actually measures. The researchers plan to further study the risk these fibers may pose. 

Researchers have focused on the approximately 46,000 people born since 1920 who have worked in the production of taconite, mined and processed in Minnesota since the 1950s. More information on this study can be viewed here

Dave Scouton in Foley & Mansfield’s Minneapolis office has been following Iron Range developments for years. For additional information and analysis, please contact him at 612-349-9846 or E-mail dscouton@foleymansfield.com.