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Taconite: Another Cause of Mesothelioma?

Researchers with the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health have recently published a study indicating there is a strong association between taconite mine work and mesothelioma.
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Our Boston mesothelioma lawyers know it has long been believed that asbestos exposure was the only known cause of mesothelioma.

But there may be more to the study than meets the eye. What researchers have discovered is a link – not a definitive cause-and-effect relationship.

Asbestos defense lawyers will undoubtedly use this information in an attempt to evade responsibility for current and future claims by positing that some other exposure could have caused an individual’s illness.

However, so far the only people believed to have contracted mesothelioma in connection with taconite exposure are men who worked in the taconite industry.

Taconite is a low-grade iron ore that is mainly comprised of chert. In its natural element, it is primarily found near Lake Superior.

A connection between taconite mining work and mesothelioma was first realized back in the late 1990s. As such, the Minnesota Legislator commissioned the $4.9 million study back in 2008, noting the state’s cancer registry revealed that there were a huge spike in mesothelioma cases among Minnesota Iron Range workers.

Back in 2003, the University of Minnesota conducted a study of taconite miners, and discovered that at least 14 to 17 cases of mesothelioma among those individuals were most likely caused by asbestos exposure. However, since that time, another 35 cases of mesothelioma have been diagnosed among taconite miners, and that was what prompted this study.

Researchers wanted to find out whether taconite was causing the mesothelioma, or simply exacerbating it. It’s worth noting that asbestos was frequently used in taconite mining and processing.

The results show that for every year a taconite laborer worked in the mine, his risk of mesothelioma inched up by 3 percent. But these workers might also have been exposed to a fair amount of asbestos in this work as well.

“Researchers can not say with assuredness that dust from taconite operations causes mesothelioma,” a local report indicated. Ongoing research will be necessary, they said, to determine what role asbestos played in the cases analyzed.

Still, there is a lot that suggests working in the taconite mines was not a healthy thing. Scientists looked at causes of death among taconite workers born after 1920. What they discovered was that rates of mesothelioma, heart disease and lung cancer were far higher for taconite workers than they were for the general population.

Researchers further pointed out that the taconite industry may be safer today than it was years ago. Occupational exposure to various forms of dust are considered to be within safe limits, and spouse-related contraction of dust-related lung ailments were no higher for taconite workers than they were for the population at large. That is a major difference from what we see in the asbestos industry, where spouses of workers exposed to asbestos have much higher rates of mesothelioma than the general population.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Study confirms link between mesothelioma, taconite, April 13, 2013, By John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
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Flood of Abestos Claims to be Filed Against NY Nassau Coliseum, March 26, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog