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University of Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study research team presents update on findings

University of Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study research team presents update on findings

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University of Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study research team presents update on cancer study findings
University of Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study research team presents update on cancer study findings

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Published by: Minnesota Public Radio on Apr 12, 2013
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PRESSRELEASE:
Embargoeduntil5:00p.m.,April12,2013
UofMTaconiteWorkersHealthStudyresearchteam
presentsupdateonfindings
Contact:
JustinPaquette,AcademicHealthCenter,(612)718
-
6892,
jpaquett@umn.edu
KrisStouffer,SchoolofPublicHealth,(612)
306
-
7955
,
stouffer@umn.edu
LaurelHerold,AcademicHealthCenter,(218)341
-
7270,
hero0045@umn.edu
MINNEAPOLIS/
ST.PAUL(April12,2013)
UniversityofMinnesotaresearchershave
confirmed
anassociationbetweentimespentworkinginthetaconiteindustryandanincreasedriskof
contractingmesothelioma
,
an
association
evident 
across
Minnesota’s
IronRange
.
Researchers
also
found
thatairqualityincommunitiessurroundingtaconiteminesiscleanerintermsof
particulates
thanairfound
inMinneapolis
.
They’vealsofoundthat
current
occupational
exposuretodustfromtaconiteoperations
isgenerally
with
insafeexposurelimits.
TheupdatedresultscomeastheTaconiteWorkers
HealthStudy,amulti
-
pronged
researchinitiative
fundedbythestateofMinnesota
,
windsdownlaterthisyear.
TheMinnesotaLegislature
commissionedthe$4.9millionprojectin20
08,afterdatafromtheMinnesotaCancerRegistry
revealed
anapparentexcessof
casesofmesothelioma
in
IronRange
workers
.
Themesothelioma
deathsonlyoccurredinmenworkinginthetaconiteindustry.
TheUniversityofMinnesotaSchool
of
PublicHealt 
hpartneredwiththeMedicalSchoolandthe
NaturalResourcesResearchInstituteattheUniversityofMinnesota
Duluthontheproject.
“ThisisalandmarkstudyforMinnesotaandtheIronRange,”saidJohnFinnegan,Ph.D.,deanofthe
SchoolofPublic
Health.“Ourgoalwastobegintoanswerquestionsaroundhowminingand
taconiteprocessinghaveimpactedthehealthofMinnesotans.Thesestudieshavestartedtouncover
thoseanswers.”
 Anexaminationof
increasedratesof
mesothelioma
Mesothelioma,a
fatalcancer
of
theliningofthelung,is
mainly
causedbyprolongedexposureto
asbestosparticlesintheair
,linkingthedisease
to
occupations
thatusedthematerial
inthepast.
TheMinnesotaDepartmentofHealth
originally
establishedarelations
hipbetweenworkinginthe
ironminingindustryandanincreasedriskformesothelioma
inthe1990’s/early2000’s.
P
ast
UniversityofMinnesota
researchhas
also
reportedtheriskformesotheliomainironmining
workerstobearoundthreetimeshigherthan
in
Minnesotansnotworkingintheindustry.
Asaresult,
UniversityofMinnesotaresearchershavelookedforexplanations
fortheincrease
and
foundthatforeveryyearworked,theriskformesotheliomawentuparound
threepercent.
R
esearchers
have
want 
ed
todeterminewhether
ornot
c
umulativeexposure
tofibertypeswithin
 
thefamilyofelongatedmineralparticles(EMPs)presentinthedus
tfromtaconiteoperations
could
accountforthisincrease.Thetype
s
ofEMPsinvolvedinironoremininghavenotbeen
previously
linkedtoincreasedmesotheliomarisk.
Astheseexposureswereexamined,
researchers
did
identif 
y
apotentiallinkbetweencu
mulativeexposuretoworkplaceEMPsandmesothelioma
intaconite
workers
.However,
thelinkisnotfelttobe
certain
.
Asaresult,theresearcherscannotsaywith
assuredness
thatdustfromtaconiteoperationscause
s
mesothelioma.Furtherdataanalysisinthisareawillcontinueinthecomingmonths.
Oneimportantfindingoftheworktodateis
thattheriskofcontractingmesotheliomaishigher
acrossthe
entiretyofthe
Rangeamongpeoplewhoworkedlongerinthe
industry,saidJeffMandel
,
M.D.,M.P.H.,aSchoolofPublicHealthenvironmentalhealthexpertand
principalinvestigatorofthe
stud
y
.“Unfortunately,thereis
minimal
information
onexposuretoothersourcesofasbestos
,a
specifictypeofEMPknownt 
ocausemesothelioma
,which
theymayhaveexperiencedoutsideof
ironoreprocessing.Itissomethingthatwewanttocontinuetolooka
,ifatallpossible
.”
T
aconiteworkermortality
Inadditiontomesothelioma,w
ithintheTaconiteWorkersHealth
Study
researchers
researchers
assessedcausesofdeathamongpeoplebornafter1920whospenttimeintheironminingindustry
inMinnesota.Thisstudyincludespeopleworkingin
the
taconiteindustryandtheformerhematite
industry.
Thecausesofdeat 
h
intaconiteworkers(whencomparedtoMinnesotaaverages)
werehigherthan
expectedforthreeimportantdiseases:mesothelioma,lungcancerandheartdisease.
Causesof
deathsfrom
allthree
werehigherthanexpectedacrosstheIronRangeandnotinone
particular
location.
Althoughw
orkingin
thetaconiteindustry
increasesa
person’slifetimeriskofmesothelioma
,
he
increase
equatestoasmall
risk 
ofactuallydevelopingthedisease.Mesotheliomaisstillaveryrare
disease.
Becausetaconite
workersha
ve
higherratesofdeaththantheircounterpartsforalltypesofca
ncer
combinedandheartdisease
,
italsoappearst 
hereare
other
healthconsiderationsimpactingpeople
livingontheIronRangeandlifestyleappearstobe
an
importantfactor.
 A
irqualityassessment
University
research
erscanalsoconfirm
thatairqualityincommunitiessurroundingtheminesis
betterthanmostpartsofMinnesotaintermsofparticulatesintheair.Also,researchersfoundthat
occupationalexposurestodust
fromtaconiteoperationsare,generally,withinsafelimits.
In
addition,spousesoftaconiteindustryworkersarealsoatnohigherriskofcontractingdust 
-
related
lungdiseasesthanMinnesota’sbroadergeneralpublic.
“We’re
hopefulthattheresultsto
date
willallayfearsthattaconitedusthasgeneratedbroadharm
tothegeneral
public,”saidMandel
.
When
employersandemployeesbotht 
ake
theappropriate
safety
precautions
tocurtaildust
exposures
,
potentiallyharmful
effectsfromthedustscanbe
eliminated
.
Tomeasureairqualityandpotentialexposuretocommunityresidentstodust 
generatedinthe

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