Funding for study of Iron Range cancers moving through House

Mine sign
The entrance to the Cleveland Cliffs United Taconite facility.
MPR Photo/Stephanie Hemphill

(AP) - Funding for a study of a kind of lung cancer that might be connected to mining taconite is moving through the state House.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, says Iron Rangers have been waiting 30 years to find out if taconite does, or does not, produce asbestos-like fibers that cause the cancer.

Taconite fiber
This electron microscope photo shows a taconite fiber breaking up into smaller fibers in rat lung tissue. The state Health Department is conducting studies to see if taconite fibers can cause mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer which is usually associated with asbestos exposure.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Philip Cook, U.S. EPA

That's why he's been shepherding the funding bill through the House. It was passed last week by his House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy committee.

If adopted, the $4.9 million for the University of Minnesota study would come from the state Worker's Compensation Fund.

The bill has another House committee to clear before going to the floor for a vote. The Senate has yet to hold a hearing on the issue.

The latest count from the state Health Department says 58 people in the area have died from the rare cancer called mesothelioma.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)