Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70-80% of mesothelioma cases. Because higher than expected rates of mesothelioma have been reported among men in northeastern Minnesota since the late 1980s, questions have been raised about the relationship of mining to mesothelioma occurrence. The relationship of mining to other respiratory disease has also been questioned.
Initial investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health found that 58 of the mesothelioma cases are part of a cohort of 70,000 mining workers. The number of cases that occurred within this cohort of mining workers has raised concerns for taconite workers, their families and the Iron Range Community.
Possible factors related to mesothelioma:
Without the exposure information, we can only speculate as to the origin of the cases which could include: