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New Mesothelioma Cases Identified in Minnesota Miners

Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Most cases of the disease arise from occupational exposure, which has traditionally come from working in shipyards, construction and other areas where asbestos has been utilized for its characteristic strength and resistance to heat and fire. Exposure has also been common among those working in asbestos mines and processing plants, as well as those responsible for the transport of the toxic material. Concerns were recently raised about the possibility that mesothelioma might be a risk factor for those working in Minnesota’s Iron Range, and ongoing studies have been conducted to identify possible victims. Today comes word that 21 new cases of the deadly disease have been identified in those mine workers that the researchers have been following.

The Minnesota Department of Health has been working collaboratively with the University of Minnesota since the late 1990s to follow a group of 69,000 mine workers who had worked in the mines between the 1930s and 1982. They had previously identified 80 cases, and the new discovery now brings the total number to 101. Though the mines have been treated to protect against asbestos exposure in the future, there is little that can be done for those who have been exposed previously. Mesothelioma’s long latency period means that it can take many years after exposure for the disease to appear.

According to Senator David Tomassoni, “The obvious challenge with mesothelioma is that it takes decades to manifest itself, so you can’t really do much today. It’s one of these dilemmas you have a really hard time dealing with it. There’s virtually nothing that can be done about it because those practices happened so long ago.”

As the researchers continue to study the incidence of those who worked in the mines, they indicate that the asbestos in the mines seems not to have impacted those outside of the worksite. In fact, the incidence of mesothelioma in women in Minnesota is actually lower than that of other states. Alan Bender is Section Chief of Chronic Disease and Environmental Epidemiology for the Iron Range, and says, “The work has shown that the broad community is not at risk. But there is no evidence that the rates are going down.” Echoing those thoughts, State Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger says that the number of mesothelioma cases in mine workers will continue to rise for a while. “It is an ongoing issue because people were exposed to asbestos before it was identified as a major problem,” he said.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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