Researchers update number of mesothelioma deaths among Iron Range workers

University of Minnesota researchers have updated the number of Iron Range workers known to have died from a rare lung cancer.

Last October, public health researchers reported 82 deaths since the 1950s from mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. That was out of about 46,000 people born since 1920 who worked in the taconite industry.

In an update presented to the state legislature, the number of deaths is reported as 80, said lead researcher Jeffrey Mandel.

"The number changed because we found a couple of those that were recorded earlier were actually duplicates," Mandel said. "That happens as we go through our quality assurance process."

The occurrence of mesothelioma is considerably higher than one would expect and researchers are still unsure why, Mandel said.

"We're particularly trying to see if there's a relationship between working in the taconite industry and having a risk for mesothelioma or lung cancer," Mandel said.

Researchers now are looking for links between specific working conditions and high rates of disease. The legislature appropriated nearly $5 million for the study in 2008. More results are expected this fall.