Taconite worker health testing moving to Silver BayThe ongoing University of Minnesota health study of current and former taconite industry workers is moving from Virginia to Silver Bay to attract more steelworkers from the eastern Iron Range.
By: John Myers , Duluth News Tribune
The ongoing University of Minnesota health study of current and former taconite industry workers is moving from Virginia to Silver Bay to attract more steelworkers from the eastern Iron Range.
The study was based out of Virginia Regional Medical Center for the past year and has tested nearly 1,500 industry workers, former employees and their spouses in an effort to find out why more steelworkers die from a rare lung disease compared to the general public.
John Finnegan Jr., dean of the university’s school of public health, said officials involved in the $4.9 million study want Iron Rangers, especially current taconite workers from across a broader geographic area, to be tested. They noted that some people from the Silver Bay area had said Virginia was too far to travel to be tested.
“While we are pleased with the response, for the results to be representative, it is important for the sample to include more participants in the working age group from the east side of the Iron Range,” Finnegan said in an open letter to people involved in the study.
Testing at the Bay Area Health Center, 50 Outer Circle in Silver Bay, will run from Sept. 20 to Oct. 15. A public informational meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Silver Bay Recreation Building at 109 Outer Drive to encourage people who receive an invitation to participate.
State health data shows that an unusually high number of Iron Range residents are dying from mesothelioma, a rare lung disease associated with exposure to asbestos. The health testing also is looking for other lung ailments. Health officials also are poring over death and health records to see if other Iron Rangers might have succumbed to lung disease that wasn’t reported.
Participation is free but by invitation only, meaning people can’t volunteer until contacted, to keep it a random sample. The testing involves a medical office visit for a lung capacity test, chest X-ray, blood sample and medical history. The results are confidential and are available to the person in about 30 days.
Study officials hope to screen about 2,000 people and finish the tests in September with preliminary conclusions by 2011, although it could be 2015 before a full report is available.