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Iron Range workers at increased risk of mesothelioma

The Iron Range is an area in northeast Minnesota where there are high numbers of iron ore bands. Over the years, several Iron Range workers have died from mesothelioma, which is a deadly disease caused by asbestos exposure.

Public health researchers have been tallying mesothelioma deaths in Iron Range workers since the 1950s and have reported that 80 asbestos-related deaths have occurred. Victims of mesothelioma and their families often file workers' compensation lawsuits since there are many situations in which an employer was aware of the risk associated with asbestos. Sadly, several companies do not properly warn employees of these risks nor do they do enough to protect the workers.

In 2008, the legislature had allotted almost $5 million for researchers to study the link between mesothelioma and the taconite industry. A lead researcher in the Iron Range has stated that mesothelioma occurrence is higher than a person could expect in this area and that researchers are still figuring out why that might be.

However, as we have discussed in this blog, there are many categories of employees who experienced higher-than-normal exposure to asbestos in their professions. Among those at risk are iron workers, miners and heavy equipment operators. Based on this knowledge, it may be possible that people who lived and worked closely to the iron ore deposits were exposed to harmful levels of the toxic fiber.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the lung lining and other internal organs. Between the 1940s and the 1970s, millions of people worked around asbestos fibers, as it was commonly used until the 1980s. Because these lung diseases can take up to 40 years to become visible, it is not unusual that many people are only now learning that they were exposed to asbestos.

In many situations, it may take legal assistance to track down the exact source of asbestos exposure. In cases when a person's job was in a certain location or industry, it may be a little easier. When this is determined, victims and their families may choose to file a lawsuit against a company for negligently exposing workers to asbestos.

Source: MPR, "Researchers update number of mesothelioma deaths among Iron Range workers," Dan Kraker, March 1, 2012

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