Health Risks Associated with Taconite Mining 1987-2009 Study

Health Risks Associated with Taconite Mining

Taconite iron ore mining and processing presents significant health risks to both workers in the strip mines and residents living near the mine site.

Increased rates of silicosis & mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer

·      Between 1987-2009, Michigan confirmed 37 cases of silicosis in workers who worked the taconite strip mines and processing plants, with researchers estimating that the actual number of silicosis is higher[1]

·      In 2007, public health workers found that mesothelioma was striking Minnesota taconite workers at twice the expected rate, with 63 cases of this rare cancer reported among taconite workers and community members.  The Minnesota Legislature has since committed millions of dollars to study the link between taconite dust and mesothelioma[2]

Taconite Strip Mining & Processing Releases Arsenic, Lead and Mercury

·      Arsenic, lead and mercury can cross the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, causing significant damage to unborn children and nervous system development in children under 6

·      Mercury bioaccumulates (or collects) in fish leading to high levels of mercury toxicity in people who eat fish[3]

·      According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 8% of infants in the Lake Superior region (MN, WI, MI) are already born with toxic levels of mercury in their blood, with 1 in 10 babies born with high levels of mercury

·      Arsenic contamination is associated with cancers of the lungs, bladder, kidney, prostate and skin

[1] Rosenmen, Kenneth D., & Mary Jo Reilly, Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, 2009 Annual Report on Silicosis in Michigan, 28 February 2011,


[3] USGS, Mercury in the Environment Fact Sheet 146-00 (October 2000),