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Experts outline Iron Range health studies

ST. PAUL - The state needs more research into potential health problems of some Iron Range taconite industry workers and better documentation of cancer victims' work history, Minnesota lawmakers heard today.

ST. PAUL - The state needs more research into potential health problems of some Iron Range taconite industry workers and better documentation of cancer victims' work history, Minnesota lawmakers heard today.

State officials and cancer experts testified before a joint panel of House public health and workforce development committees. The hearing followed a recent state Health Department report documenting nearly three dozen new cases of mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer, among mine workers on the Iron Range.

Health Department officials told legislators about two new studies they have proposed. One would focus on the health of northeastern Minnesota mine workers. Another would evaluate health risks of exposure to mineral dust in and around taconite plants.

A key question that needs to be answered, one expert said, is whether fibers in taconite dust cause mesothelioma.

Bob Bratulich, United Steelworkers' District 11 director, said his union supports further research.

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Funding problems have limited the scope of previous mesothelioma studies, officials said.

Lawmakers said they will push for legislation requiring that a cancer victim's entire work history be included in a state cancer registry. Some information about cancer victims already is required to be part of that registry.

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