(By Britta Arendt for Grand Rapids Herald-Review, published online August 29, 2009) — Itasca County Health and Human Services Director Lester Kachinske provided an update on the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study during a meeting of the ICHHS Board this week.
Kachinske explained that the study is backed by $4.9 million in funding from the state legislature to investigate the causes of mesothelioma among taconite workers. The University of Minnesota is partnering on the project with the Natural Resources Research Institute at the UMD. The partnership co-chairs are Ron Dicklich of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools and Dean Finnegan with the U of M School of Public Health.
The research will determine the extent to which employment in the taconite industry and exposure to dust from the taconite industry affects the health of workers and their families with emphasis on respiratory diseases and diseases associated with silica and asbestos exposure.
“I think this has good union support backed by good research,” commented Kachinske who requested that board commissioners encourage their constituents to take part in the study, if they are invited.
Kachinske said the study invited 1,200 random miners to participate, however the first attempt only garnered 120 responses.
“A message to the public: If you get invited please participate because it will be of benefit to you and all other workers in the taconite industry,” said Kachinske.
To learn more about the study, visit www.taconiteworkers.umn.edu.