Monday, April 21, 2008

Mesothelioma Study Funding Gains Approval in Minnesota Senate

The Minnesota Senate approved funding last week for a study of mesothelioma in Iron Range workers. A testy debate had taken place over the issue in the House a week earlier.

Governor Tim Pawlenty warned legislators that he would veto the study if the proposed financing were to come from a special state workers' compensation fund that could potentially raise business owners' costs.

The threat forced a compromise, which Senator David Tomassoni said should “alleviate any fears of the governor.”

Under the proposed compromise, financing for the mesothelioma study would come from a separate, “assigned risk” workers' compensation fund. According to Tomassoni, the assigned risk fund has ample reserves and is less likely to effect businesses.

Iron Range Workers & Mesothelioma

Last year, it was revealed that 58 former Iron Range miners suffered from mesothelioma, a disease caused primarily by asbestos exposure.

Research has never fully looked at the hazards of mining dust in Iron Range workers, despite decades of concern over possible health risks.

House & Governor Approval

If signed by the governor, the legislation would provide funding for research into the health of miners (past and present), their spouses, and the quality of the air around the mine. The study will be conducted by the University of Minnesota.

Representative Tom Rukavina said the House would accept the compromise to pull financing from the assigned risk fund.

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