An additional 21 cases of mesothelioma among Minnesota Iron Range miners was released this Tuesday. This brings the total mesothelioma to 101, reports the Minnesota Department of Public Health (MDH).
Per news reports, a thorough, multi-year study on asbestos and mesothelioma performed by both MDH and the University of Minnesota connected the high rate of mesothelioma with those who worked inside Minnesota’s Iron Range taconite iron ore. However, although research results indicate that the patients’ mesothelioma stems from asbestos exposure, it may have also taken place via commercial asbestos that was found in insulation in addition to the mined asbestos fibers.
All 101 mesothelioma victims are male, and all worked in the asbestos mining industry from the 1930s until the early 1980s. Out of the newly-found 21 victims, only 3 people remain alive.
Taconite Workers’ Risk Rate of Mesothelioma
According to the study, taconite workers have a high rate of developing mesothelioma, at 3.3 per 1,000 workers. This rate kicks in by the time the worker is age 80, and is at least double the rate for the entire state of Minnesota, which has a rate of 1.4 per 1,000.
Minnesota Started Noticing High Mesothelioma Rates a Decade Ago
The state of Minnesota began noticing higher-than-usual mesothelioma rates during the 1990s, which prompted officials to order the study, in hopes of finding why so many Iron Range residents were developing a life-threatening disease. Although the source of exposure is still not definitive (working inside the ore vs. commercial asbestos), the $5 million study does indicate that the disease is happening more than likely due to work exposure.
All cases involve individuals who, at one time during their lives, worked in the taconite mining industry, although this ranges from several different job sites.
The latest 21 cases didn’t surprise health officials. Since mesothelioma can lie dormant for up to 50 years, it’s common for people who have not worked in decades to get a formal diagnosis many years later.
“This form of cancer has an extremely long latency period,” Minnesota health commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger reported. “The interval between exposure to the agent that causes the cancer and the time when the cancer appears can be as long as 40 or 50 years, possibly even longer. We have always expected to see additional cases as time went by, in people who were exposed many years ago. We expect to see still more cases going forward.”
Conwed Facility Workers Also at Risk
In addition to mining workers facing mesothelioma, there may also be a link between former workers at a facility in Conquet, known as the Conwed facility. Workers at the Conwed facility manufactured asbestos tiles from the 1950s until the 1970s. In fact, there is at least 39 confirmed mesothelioma to-date cases among Conwed facilities workers. New cases continue to rise from former workers at the facility.
Spouses Not Affected
Although second-hand asbestos exposure has been linked to causing mesothelioma and other illnesses among spouses and children, results of the Minnesota study shows that only the workers themselves (so far) have been affected. In other words, the issue lies within excessive asbestos exposure in the workplace.
However, even if you’ve never worked around asbestos, it’s highly recommended to undergo routine medical check-ups if you regularly came into contact with a loved one or anyone else who may have worked around asbestos.
In the meantime, however, Dr. Ehlinger states that people should not panic, but instead keep in mind that asbestos is a problem that the community will continue to fight.
“We know that mesothelioma is a horrible disease, but I don’t think there’s any reason to panic at any point in time. It is an ongoing issue because people were exposed to asbestos before it was identified as a major problem. We know that there is still asbestos in many worksites, so it continues to be a problem.”
Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, there is a good chance that you’re eligible for substantial compensation. With more than $30 billion currently available in asbestos trust funds, now is the time to take the first steps in determining what you may qualify for. For additional information, we invite you to contact our top mesothelioma attorneys today for a free, confidential case consultation.