Taconite Workers at Risk for Fatal Illnesses

For six years, the University of Minnesota (UMN) has been studying the relationship between Iron Range (taconite) workers and their risk of developing life-threatening diseases. After $4.9 million put into research, experts have determined that these workers have a higher risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and heart disease when compared to Minnesota’s general population. The research findings were released this week at a conference held at the City of Hibbing Memorial Arena.

According to reports, UMN started the Taconite Workers Health Study in 2008, following the discoverance of many mesothelioma cases that were occurring rapidly in former miners. It was determined that the workers’ exposure to elongate mineral particles (EMP), fine, odorless materials that are similar to asbestos fibers, was causing the diseases. Experts suggest that the workers were inhaling EMP after being exposed to commercial asbestos or mining dust.

“Even though we couldn’t pinpoint some of the reasons for mesothelioma we know the mesothelioma is related to working in the industry,” said lead investigator of the study, Jeff Mandel.

However, even with a higher rate of mesothelioma occurring in taconite workers, scientists say it’s important to understand that mesothelioma is still relatively low when compared to the frequency of other life-threatening illnesses.

“We also found evidence of other conditions that are probably equally or more important because they are a lot more common,” Mandel continued.

Another person who assisted with the research, David Mlaker, is a former Range miner, who is now employed by U.S. Steel. Although he was disappointed that the cause of mesothelioma couldn’t be pinpointed better, he is hopeful that more studies will help figure out if commercial asbestos is the cause.

“I’m just a little bit disappointed because we weren’t able to pinpoint if it was really commercial asbestos or coming from the ore body,” said Mlaker. “Test the mineral; that’s all we need. Test the mineral, and I think we can answer the questions,” he continued.

Former Employees Mourn the Loss of Co-Workers

Meanwhile, former workers remember the friends and co-workers lost due to mesothelioma and other diseases. David Trach, who spent over 30 years working in the taconite industry, hopes that scientists will continue to research, as he has lost many friends and colleagues due to diseases.

“Hopefully this is ongoing, that they’ll monitor whatever they can watch and look over and make sure that what we are doing and what we are trying to do is going to be better for the people who work in the mines,” said Trach.

Fortunately, scientists plan to continue the research. They plan to monitor the people who were not exposed to asbestos, to see if any additional answers can be found.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asbestos exposure has been in the public eye for at least three decades, and this new study is only one of the latest studies that was performed on taconite workers and mesothelioma. Talc mines in Upstate New York, as well as Libby, Montana were previously studied, both of which found that EMP ingestion was the main reason behind the development of life-threatening illnesses.

Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, there is a good chance that you’ll qualify for considerable compensation. Right now, there is over $30 billion awaiting those who have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease. Contact our top mesothelioma attorneys today for a free, confidential legal consultation.


  1. http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/s3635982.shtml
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-159/pdfs/2011-159.pdf


FREE Financial Compensation Packet

Free Next Day Shipping
There is a time limit - ACT NOW
  • Info on law firms that will recover your highest compensation
  • Learn how to get paid in 90 days
  • File for your share of $30 billion in trust funds
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.