University of Minnesota to Help with Iron Range Asbestos Study

A research team from the University of Minnesota has agreed to handle a comprehensive study into why workers exposed to asbestos in northeastern Minnesota’s iron ore mines have a higher rate of cancer than anywhere else in the state.

John Finnegan, dean of the School of Public Health at the university, said the Department of Health would still play an important role, working alongside the University, in the study that will take three to five more years to complete.

“We see this as helping out friends,” he said. “It is hard for us to see them go through this rough time.”

The University and Department of Health have had a close relationship for 130 years, Finnegan told The Minnesota Daily, the school’s newspaper. In addition, good communication between the Legislature, the University and the Department of Health is crucial to the success of the study, he added.

With the University taking over the study, it hopes to regain credibility and focus on the scientific aspects of the study, Finnegan said.

Finnegan said he spoke with University President Bob Bruininks, who promised to provide initial funds for the study. When the new legislative session begins in January, the University will introduce a bill to help further fund the project, which has a projected cost of more than $3 million, he said. Any funding from the state would fund the central parts of the study, Finnegan said.

The state Department of Health has come under fire for the withholding of more than a year of important information about cancer rates among the mine workers.

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