Minnesota is often called the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' and is the 12th largest area in the US. Sixty percent of its residents live in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area (the 'Twin Cities'), which primarily serve as the center of business, transportation and government. The western area of the state is mainly in agriculture, while the south offers deciduous forests and farmland. The less-populated Northeast is primarily used for forestry, mining and other construction-based industries. Minnesota was famous for its iron mines, and in 2004, produced 75% of the country's iron ore, and exposed many Minnesotan workers to asbestos.
Mesothelioma Cases in Minnesota
Minnesota’s mesothelioma death rate is annually around 11 people per million, and two of the Northeast’s counties rank in the top 50 areas with the highest mesothelioma death rates. Workers in the northeast region of the state were particularly exposed, and from 1999 to 2013, 909 residents died from mesothelioma.
Carlton County ranks 3rd highest with an annual rate of 55.1 deaths per million. Statistically, more men than women have been diagnosed with the disease in Minnesota alone, primarily due to the type of industry in which they worked. In the 1950s, few people understood the risks associated with asbestos, and today many employers are facing lawsuits for not protecting their workers’ lives.
Asbestos Use in Minnesota
Minnesota’s economy relied heavily on industries that used asbestos, including:
- Iron mining
- Flour mills
- Oil refineries
- Power plants
- Construction and maintenance
Since the declines of asbestos use in the early 1970s (a reduction from 800,000 metric tons in 1973 to only 406 tons in 2014), asbestos is much less of a risk. However, it is still present in millions of homes, offices and workplaces today.
A lot of mesothelioma cases have been found in the iron ore mining sector. Once the iron deposits became depleted, the workers moved onto mining taconite (a lower grade of iron ore), the dust of which contains tiny, asbestos-like fibers that can lead to mesothelioma when inhaled.
Home to the Iron Range, Minnesota’s largest industry in the 1970s was the iron mines. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, these miners have a substantial risk of developing mesothelioma—perhaps three times higher than the state average.
A 2016 study of 68,737 iron ore miners found that there was an association between mesothelioma and employment duration with exposure to iron ore mining and processing.
Another industry that used a lot of asbestos materials was the flour mills. Minneapolis, in particular, became an important industrial city for flour milling in the late 19th century. As the Flour Milling Capital of the World, Minnesota’s large factories like General Mills and Pillsbury are still open today. However, old machinery and construction equipment contained asbestos, meaning that the people working in these buildings were unwittingly inhaling the harmful fibers.
Power plants used to be hazardous environments to work in, as asbestos was used as a protectant against combustion and fires. While it may have had protective properties, it was also incredibly harmful to the people working in these power plants. Sherco, Sherburne and Municipal Power Plants are but three examples of large Minnesota plants that put thousands of people at risk over an extended period.
Historically, oil refineries across the country used asbestos, meaning that workers were subjected to conditions that could result in them developing mesothelioma or other dangerous lung cancers. However, Pine Bend Refinery, located near the Twin Cities, has recently won awards for environmental safety, which is an excellent example of how these industries are turning around their negative reputations and making the working environment cleaner, safer and more health-conscious.
Minnesota Asbestos Laws and Regulations
Unfortunately, many Minnesota residents working at large commercial or military sites were exposed to asbestos. The Minnesota Department of Health is responsible for overseeing most asbestos regulations in the state, but they’ve also helped to create additional guidelines that can be found under the state’s Asbestos Abatement Act. This department deals with all occupation-related exposure to asbestos in Minnesota.
Asbestos professionals must also be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health, whose standards tend to be much stricter than federal requirements. Sections 70-81 in the Minnesota Asbestos Abatement Act provide additional information, along with chapter 326 of the Minnesota Statutes.
Asbestos must be disposed of safely and swiftly. This is usually overseen by both the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, who work together to ensure the proper transportation and discarding of asbestos-containing materials.
Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is a four-year statute of limitations to file lawsuits in personal injury cases and a three-year limit for wrongful death. It’s always best to speak to a lawyer specializing in asbestos-related claims as soon as possible to ensure you receive full compensation.
Retaining a Minnesota Mesothelioma Lawyer
Many law firms will never have worked a case involving mesothelioma, so it’s essential that you find a lawyer who specializes in the field. Their extensive knowledge of asbestos manufacturer and distributors will significantly help your case and will be able to resolve the compensation in the fastest time.
For more information on asbestos exposure in Minnesota, contact our Justice Support Team today.