Legislation funding a study of lung disease among iron ore miners has cleared its first committee in the Minnesota Senate.
The measure provides $4.9 million to the University of Minnesota to investigate lung health, including the asbestos-related cancer known as mesothelioma.
There is a high rate of the cancer among men living in the Iron Range region.
DFL Senator David Tomassoni of Chisholm, the bill's sponsor, said the study will take up to five years to complete. Tomassoni said researchers will hopefully explain the link between the cancer and miners.
"When you see 58 unexpected deaths, and you know that you have something within your midst that might take 15 to 30 years to manifest itself just because of an exposure you had while you were working there. It's extremely important to find out exactly what the cause is and how we can prevent it," said Tomassoni.
The Senate Health, Housing and Family Security approved the bill Friday, sending it to the Finance committee.
A similar bill is advancing in the Minnesota House.