Minnesota Mesothelioma Resources and Asbestos Information

Mining operations and facilities that expose workers to hazardous conditions are plentiful in Minnesota and other parts of the country. Much of the focus is on asbestos, which is a leading cause of health problems for people having spent a great deal of time in close proximity to this substance. In the past several decades, research has shown an obvious link between certain forms of cancer and asbestos.

Minnesota has a vast amount of serpentine chrysotile and amphibole asbestos in its soils, particularly in the northeast section of the state. Iron ore has been mined in this area for more than a century, and in the 1970s many of these mining areas were re-opened for the extraction of taconite ore, which is a silicate that is present in layers of shale. These silicate fibers can be considered a form of asbestos, and are also thought to be contaminated with other types of asbestos responsible for the increase in mesothelioma cases reported in this area after mining operations were renewed.

A number of power plants, smelting operations, and petroleum processing sites in Minnesota have used asbestos in building construction. In structures where high heat is produced, whether by fire, electricity, or natural gas, as well as the plumbing components of these buildings, asbestos has long been used as an insulator and a flame retardant material to protect employees. These fibers are also used in the making of heat-resistant clothing, especially jackets and gloves.

The asbestos fibers are released when the clothing or insulation is torn or damaged, and they become free-floating particles in the air and are easily inhaled. By the time the dangers of asbestos fibers and their obvious link to mesothelioma and other cancerous conditions were made known in the 1980s, thousands of workers had suffered constant exposure to these fibers in their place of employment. Older buildings, historically preserved structures, and even older schools and hospitals may contain asbestos. Not all of these buildings have been identified, although a massive effort is underway to inspect older furnaces, boiler rooms, and coal-powered generators where asbestos may be present.

Minnesota ranks quite high on the list of states where asbestos-causing cancers are reported in substantial numbers. As in other areas of the country with abnormally high numbers of mesothelioma and other cancers, there is a direct connection to exposure to asbestos fibers in the Minnesota workplace.