In 2006, the University of Minnesota began a $4.9-million-dollar study of mesothelioma in the Iron Ridge of Minnesota, where unusually high rates of the rare and terminal lung cancer have been discovered. Interest in the study was sparked further as the Minnesota Department of Health began reviewing data from the state cancer registry in preparation for the study and discovered an alarming number of mesothelioma deaths in Minnesota’s iron mining industry.

The Iron Range is located in the northeastern region of Minnesota. It is a landscape that is rich in taconite, which contains iron and silica and is melted down to produce steel. The research into the region will continue, with health screenings for miners of the region and their families to begin this spring. Researchers hope to complete random screenings of at least 2000 people in the Iron Ridge region. The screenings will be completed at the Virginia Regional Medical Center in the next six to nine months.

The questions raised during this research include if the taconite dust may be contaminated with asbestos or if the exposure occurred at various construction and labor jobs around the taconite mines.