The fact that microscopic asbestos fibers caused mesothelioma and asbestos-lung cancer may have come as a shock generations ago, but scientists and safety regulators have known for decades that other airborne particulates carry the same risk. With substantial profits to be gained through the use of these products, however, there continues to be resistance to regulation -- or even to appropriate safety measures being taken.
Gogebic Taconite, a subsidiary of Cline Resource and Development Group, has made preliminary steps toward the development of a $1.5-billion taconite, or iron ore, mine near Ashland, Wisconsin. The project had already sparked controversy over its possible environmental impact, because the local geology suggests the presence of sulfide rock. If released into local streams and wetlands, opponents say, it could harm waterways and downstream habitats.
Public health experts had long suspected that people in the taconite industry are at an increased risk for developing mesothelioma, because at least 82 taconite workers on Minnesota's Iron Range have died from the rare but deadly cancer in recent years.
Although the five-year study into the increased rate of mesothelioma among workers in the Iron Range area of northern Minnesota is not yet complete, researchers recently gave reporters an update on their progress. Thus far, they said, they have yet to find a solid, conclusive source of the asbestos exposure that has caused more than 80 Iron Range miners to succumb to mesothelioma in the last few years.
Earlier this week, University of Minnesota researchers presented the Minnesota state legislature with an update on their ongoing research into the number of mesothelioma deaths in taconite miners and residents of cities near the mining ranges in northern Minnesota.
As part of a long-term study on the effects of asbestos exposure on taconite miners and residents of cities near the mining range, researchers recently increased the number of mesothelioma deaths from 63 to 82. The increase is due to a check of the death records in other states, health officials say.