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House committee approves study of Iron Range miners' deaths

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 10:33 AM
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House committee approves study of Iron Range miners' deaths

By Barb Kucera, Workday editor
5 March 2008

ST. PAUL - What caused 58 taconite miners to contract a rare form of cancer? On Wednesday, the state Legislature took the first step toward finding an answer for the miners, their families and Iron Range communities.

On a voice vote, a House committee approved legislation to allocate $4.9 million for a study to determine the cause of the unusual number of cases. In the process, researchers may discover effects outside the workplace and how further cases can be prevented.

"The miners deserve an answer," Steelworker Charlie Olson said in testimony before the House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division.

Last year, the state Department of Health announced that 35 miners, in addition to 17 previously identified, had died from mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that causes tumors on the surface of the lung. The number has since grown to 58, said Professor John Finnegan, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

"These cases were clearly in excess of what one would normally expect to see in an average-type population," he said.

The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos fibers. Olson said miners have long suspected asbestos was being released in taconite processing. Asbestos-like fibers have been found in the ore mined on the eastern Iron Range.

FULL story at link.

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