Mesothelioma and other lung disease in taconite miners; the uncertain role of non-asbestiform EMP

Jeffrey H. Mandel, Nnaemeka U. Odo

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The purpose of this paper was to assess the role of non-asbestiform amphibole EMPs in the etiology of mesotheliomas and other lung disease in taconite (iron ore) miners. Increased mesothelioma rates have been described in Minnesota taconite workers since the late 1990s. Currently, over 100 cases have been reported by the Minnesota Department of Health within the complete cohort of miners in Minnesota. Geologic sampling has indicated that only the eastern part of the iron range contains non-asbestiform amphibole elongate mineral particles (EMPs), in close proximity to the ore. This type of EMP has been less studied and also exists in talc and gold mining. A series of investigations into the state's taconite industry have been recently completed. Results from a cohort mortality study indicated an SMR of 2.77 (95% CI = 1.87–3.96) for mesothelioma. In a case-control study, the odds ratio for mesothelioma for high vs. low EMP exposure was 2.25 (5% CI = 1.13–4.5) but EMPs in this study were counted by phase contrast microscopy. Odds ratios were not elevated in mines located in the eastern part of the Mesabi iron range. The overall findings suggest that mesothelioma in taconite miners is related to EMP exposure. Because of the way EMPs were counted, results from these studies cannot allow a firm conclusion about the association between EMP exposure and the reported excess mesothelioma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
StatePublished - Dec 15 2018


  • Case-Control Study
  • Epidemiology
  • Mesothelioma
  • Mortality
  • Odds Ratio
  • Taconite

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