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Study still working on uncovering asbestos links in mining

Asbestos is an environmental pollutant. Unfortunately for us, it is particularly dangerous, because unlike pollutants like carbon monoxide, which are dangerous in high concentrations and can quickly kill, asbestos is dangerous in shockingly small concentrations and may take decades to cause mesothelioma. What is worse, a single exposure, inhaled deep in the lungs, is all it takes to begin the slow and sometimes tortuous path from asbestos exposure to mesothelioma.

As we have noted on previous posts, mining in locating in California can sometimes produce asbestos dust as a side effect, as asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and is sometimes mixed in with other more desirable minerals.

Asbestos is also a problem in other parts of the country. In the taconite mining areas of northern Minnesota, researchers have been trying to determine why there is a much higher incidence of mesothelioma in communities in this area than in the remainder of the state of Minnesota.

A study commissioned by the state legislature to investigate the problem is still ongoing, but the researchers have released some findings. The now report that for every year a worker was employed in the mines, his risk of mesothelioma increased by 3 percent.

Because of the long time lag before the development of mesothelioma after an exposure, many of the current cases are due to long-ago conditions. Now, the ventilation and air filtration systems are greatly superior to what was done in the past and air quality within the mines is "within acceptable limits."

They found that the air quality is better in many of the cities in the taconite mining areas is better than that in Minneapolis. However, they still have not answered the questions of why lung cancer and mesothelioma are more prevalent in that region.

Source: University of Minnesota, "Iron Range mesothelioma study finds some answers," October 29, 2013

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