Viewpoint: Who’s right? The mesothelioma legacyStrangling to death is the end result. The path to the end? Therein lies the question.
By: Janet O’Connell, Viewpoint Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
Strangling to death is the end result. The path to the end? Therein lies the question.
What do I speak of? Mesothelioma, a cancer exclusively associated with asbestos exposure.
In 2007 the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced that 35 northern Minnesota miners had developed mesothelioma — increased from an earlier report of 17 fatalities.
Public information was suppressed for a year by then Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, Diane Mandernach.
Unlike previous reports, the stricken miners were from across the entire mining region, rather than being concentrated in northeastern Minnesota mines where it’s believed taconite contains asbestos, raising questions of whether the “western” variety is also contaminated.
Or, if not asbestos, what might also cause mesothelioma? Scientific/animal studies point to silica, quartz and talc as possibilities, all minerals in taconite per the DOT.
MDH acknowledges the cause is consistent with an occupational exposure.
Numerous medical studies demonstrate asbestos as being a causal agent present in the colon/rectum, esophagus, heart, larynx, lung/bronchus, kidney, pharynx, stomach, peritoneum, pancreas, stomach and other areas of the body.
This presence happens long before mesothelioma occurs, some 20 to 50 years after exposure. In fact, mesothelioma is what occurs at the end of the line, the last thing that can happen. Asbestosis and other lung or peritoneal abnormalities occur much sooner.
Shockingly, the state is using taconite on Minnesota roads (Highways 53, 61, I-94 near Monticello and the Brainerd International Raceway).
It’s been declared “safe” by Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) and the DOT.
Conversely, MDH tells us mesothelioma has occurred in the “safe” part of the range, the west, where the taconite aggregate is coming from.
Conclusions and advancement of the use of taconite and specifically, taconite aggregate brand named Mesabi Rock, is based upon a study done by R. J. Lee Group, hired by NRRI and known as an industry favored science lab.
For example, they were retained by WR Grace, owners of vermiculite mines in Libby, Mont., one of the largest superfund sites in the U.S.
There are 20-plus mesothelioma cases, 1,200 residents with asbestosis of which 70 percent never worked in the mines.
The mine companies requested that R.J. Lee Group be hired to perform the mineral review in 2002 when the DOT and NRRI were investigating the use of taconite as aggregate for roadways.
Numerous health and science experts called for an independent review, one separate from R.J. Lee Group.
None were done and the DOT continues to rely upon the findings even in light of the “new” cases of mesothelioma from the western side of the Iron Range.
No one mentions Mesabi Rock aggregate use when they talk of the new mesothelioma study.
Oversight and supervisory agencies that will study this latest increase in mesothelioma rates and make determinations of causation are some of those profiting from the use of taconite.
For example, NRRI’s sole purpose is to advance the mining industry and its products, including taconite aggregate.
Here’s what we know from MDH reports : 58 miners died from mesothelioma from 1997 to 2007. From 1988 to 2007, there were 149 deaths.
No data was taken on women with mesothelioma, by NRRI or MDH mining studies. However, in an MDH report detailing cancer from 1998 to 2002, four females were noted in the northeast Minnesota seven-county region.
Surrounding counties of the Iron Range (Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena) for the period show 17 men and four women to have had the disease. State totals for the period: 262 male, 55 women.
It’s documented that for each case of mesothelioma, dozens or hundreds of additional cancers or respiratory/peritoneal illnesses occur.
MDH has committed to another review: Work Experience, Respiratory Health and Mortality.
Nowhere do they commit to studies of minerals. This is the single most important aspect, determining the source of the exposure.
Isn’t there a conflict if MDH is telling us there’s mesothelioma in the west and DOT is using the same taconite aggregate on roads?
If MDH doesn’t know the causal agent, how can MDH proceed with certainty to protect public health and safety?
What about exposure to all of us via contaminated air and groundwater? How would we begin to remediate such a problem?
I’ve requested our legislators to: 1) require a mineral review be added to the mesothelioma analysis, HF 3569 and SF 3300 or any subsequent bill, 2) require the mesothelioma and mineral analysis be completed by entities having no financial interest in the outcome of the studies and 3) institute a moratorium on use of taconite aggregate, known as Mesabi Rock, on Minnesota roadways and test sites until such time as a new, independent mineral review may be completed in light of the latest mesothelioma cases coming from the alleged “safe” zones of the Iron Range.
Please join me in calling legislators regarding this extremely important topic.
The last thing that any of us can afford is the spread of a substance that would expose us to mesothelioma, especially in our children and grandchildren.
Reference: www.health. state.mn.us/divs/hpcd/cdee/mcss/documents/nemeso1207.pdf Mesothelioma in Northeastern Minnesota and Two Occupational Cohorts: 2007 Update.
O’Connell is a Lake Elmo resident.