Minnesota Health Commissioner Delayed Release of Mesothelioma Diagnosis Numbers from Taconite Exposure in Iron Range Miners
Minnesota Heath Commissioner Dianne Mandernach has been under fire for her decision to withhold results of a study on the number of confirmed diagnoses of mesothelioma in miners who worked with taconite in the Iron Range, located in northeast Minnesota.
Between the 1930s and 1982, over 72,000 miners worked at the Iron Range, a site known to contain taconite.
Studies of the taconite's airborne dust and fiber at the Iron Range mines led to the study of the connection between taconite dust exposure and mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.
In March 2006, Commissioner Mandernach received results that showed that 35 miners were diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1997 and 2005. This was twice as many mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the previous nine years. This figure has since been revised, and the Health Commission now reports 58 known cases of Mesothelioma.
According to a report published by the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune, Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) was not told of the findings until February 2007, six weeks before they were released.
After the disclosure of the study results, nine Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) legislators presented a letter to Governor Pawlenty calling for Mandernach’s firing.
The letter included concerns regarding Mandernach’s breach of public trust. It also questioned whether the long delay in making the findings public would have caused some miners to not be tested for lung disease because they were not told how many of their fellow miners became seriously ill from working in the mines.
As of June 2007, Mandernach has made numerous public statements apologizing for delaying the release of this information. To date, she has only received a mild written reprimand from Governor Pawlenty.
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