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About the Study

Health Assessment of Taconite Workers

The University of Minnesota is leading a comprehensive $4.9 million research initiative, funded by the State of Minnesota, which will lead to a greater understanding of taconite worker health issues on Minnesota's Iron Range. The University of Minnesota School of Public Health is partnering on the project with the Medical School, and the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota–Duluth.

Research Focus

The Health Assessment of Taconite Workers is a thorough epidemiologic investigation into the cause(s) of the excess cases of mesothelioma among taconite workers. This research will also determine the extent to which employment in the taconite industry and exposure to dust from the taconite industry affects the health of workers with specific emphasis on respiratory diseases and diseases associated with silica and asbestos exposure.

Study Components

Three questions have shaped the scientific approach of the Health Assessment of Taconite Workers:


  1. What is the relationship of working in the taconite industry to the excess number of cases of mesothelioma?
  2. Are other diseases, respiratory and non-respiratory, associated with work in the taconite industry?
  3. Are spouses at risk for respiratory diseases as a result of their partners working it the taconite industry?


To adequately answer these questions, five separate core study designs have been developed, each with distinct goals.