As reported by the Duluth News Tribune recently, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) approved a $250,000 appropriation that would assist miners in paying for medical examinations as part of the University of Minnesota and state Department of Heath Mesothelioma study. Mesothelioma is a rare and incurable cancer. The appropriation still needs to be approved by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and would be spent locally for x-rays, MRIs and other diagnostic services on miners.State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia offered the measure. Rukavina said “Nobody should have to die going to work,” and added that “There are a lot of good people that go to work each day at [taconite mines] that fund this agency.” He said a $250,000 match is still being sought. Mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer is linked to asbestos exposure and since 2003, 58 Iron Range miners have been diagnosed with it. Lawmakers have fought for a study to pinpoint whether iron ore dust causes the disease. The study could take three to four years and several million dollars to complete. Sen. Dave Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm thinks the IRR funding makes sense to jump-start this study and hopes that the governor wouldn’t want to turn down funding to help with this issue. Cleveland-Cliffs mining company is planning to do its own mesothelioma study and is being criticized by State Representatives that there will be dueling studies. The State Representatives thought they were in agreement that a study be done so they could get to the bottom of this for the miners and that a study by the company on its own workers would make the company look bad. Cleveland-Cliffs officials state they announced their study in late March and clarified that it is not a mesothelioma study. It would be specifically aimed at identifying lung ailments of current and former workers at its Babbitt and Sliver Bay facilities from 1952 to present. Their study would determine previous exposures to dust and commercial asbestos to determine if dust can cause disease and would take approximately two years. Spokesman Dana Byrne adds that it would be done in cooperation with the state health department and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.The health department also announced two studies of its own in March, one that would focus on mesothelioma, and the other that would evaluate the likely impact of specific airborne mineral fragments identified with iron mining on the eastern end of the Iron Range.
In a study by the state health department in 2003, 17 miners out of 72,000, who worked in the mines from the 1930’s through 1982, developed the disease between 1988 and 1996. According to the health department fourteen of those 17 had significant exposure to commercial asbestos such as brake linings, plumbing, furnaces or boilers. After it was discovered the Health Department delayed an announcement for one year that an additional 35 miners died from mesothelioma, Health Commissioner resigned. Another 6 miners were discovered June 2007 to have the disease. It has never been concluded that iron ore dust caused the miners to contract the disease.
To learn more, contact the Mesothelioma Lawyers at Williams Kherkher by calling 1.800.220.9341.