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Minnesota mining study uncovers new mesothelioma cases

March 29th, 2007

A new analysis of a 2003 study by the Minnesota Health Department has given a mesothelioma diagnosis to 35 former mining workers. The study examined mesothelioma rates among former workers in the Minnesota iron mining industry who worked between the 1930s and 1982. Previous analyses had uncovered an additional 17 workers with mesothelioma symptoms.

Researchers involved in the study say that the 52 mesothelioma cases uncovered so far were most likely caused by exposure to asbestos products used in the mining industry. They say that uncovering new cases four years after the conclusion of their study was not unusual given that workers who are exposed to asbestos make take up to 50 years before they begin to exhibit mesothelioma symptoms.

Based on these mesothelioma cases, the health department is planning two new studies to investigate the link between mesothelioma and asbestos. The first would compare the cases of workers who received a mesothelioma diagnosis to those who did not to determine what workplace factors are involved in developing mesothelioma symptoms. The second study will analyze the health risks associated with exposure to airborne mineral fragments in mining in the hopes of setting limits to protect public health.

These two studies will be of great importance to the people of northern Minnesota because of the high rates of mesothelioma symptoms that have been reported there. According to the department of health, 136 workers received a mesothelioma diagnosis in the region between 1988 and 2005—more than twice the expected number.

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