Asbestos in the Penokees Fact Sheet - What we all need to know 10.23.13

Bill Wiiliams, Bob Seitz, Chris Cline and Time Myers need to read this. Senators  Cowles, Ellis, and Olsen need to put the the public health of Wisconsin citizens before the whims Koch Brothers,  your presidential wannabe leader Walker, the ego and ignorance of Taconite Tom Tiffany, and the directives from WMC and others who will not recognize, minimize, or ignore the dangers of asbestos in the air and water as a result mining. (Thanks to Jenny Mahan, RN,  for compiling this information.

Asbestos in the Penokees       Facts Citizens Should Know

What is Asbestos?

• Asbestos is a commercial and industrial term describing a group of specific minerals that form bundles of long, very thin mineral fibers. The form and structure of these is called asbestiform. In addition to asbestos, there are minerals that are asbestiform that are not technically considered asbestos, but have similar negative health effects.

• These fibers are small - up to 1,200 times thinner than a human hair, according to the MN Pollution Control Agency.

Where is Asbestos Found, & How is it Released into the Environment?

• According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Asbestos can be found in many rocks, including metamorphosed iron formations...Asbestos can be released from these rocks if the rocks are broken or crushed, and can be released from asbestos containing soils that are stirred up..."

• Asbestiform fibers, in the form of grunerite, have been documented at multiple sites within the proposed Penokee mine area.

• Areas of the Minnesota Iron Range's taconite wastes also contains asbestiform fibers. • In 1973, asbestiform fibers were found in the Duluth water supply, which rendered it unfit for human consumption. These fibers were traced to tailings that had been dumped in Lake Superior by the Reserve Mining Company. According to research done at Michigan Technical University, these fibers have been documented to have travelled at least as far as the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan.

• Asbestiform fibers from the proposed Penokee mine would be dispersed into the air and water should those rocks be disturbed by the blasting, transport, crushing, and exposure to wind and erosion in waste piles that is inherent in open-pit mining operations. They would also make their way through the air and water into Lake Superior.

How does Asbestos Affect Human Health?

• According to the CDC, "Naturally occurring asbestos is only a health problem if it is disturbed."

• When asbestiform fibers are disturbed, they are released into the air and/or water, and can be easily breathed into the lungs. Here they become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life. Fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation. Enough scarring and inflammation can affect breathing and lead to disease.

• The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency states that, "There is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos."

• Research has shown a clear link between exposure to asbestos and respiratory disease and cancers in humans, according to the CDC.

Asbestos can cause: lung cancer, mesothelioma (a very rare, aggressive, & lethal cancer), non-malignant lung and pleural (outer lining of the lungs) disorders, asbestosis, pleural plaques (fibrous thickened & possibly calcified lesions), thickening and effusions (fluid around/outside the lungs). Some studies also indicate risk for gastrointestinal and colo-rectal cancer, and possibly other cancers. Disorders are more likely in people with increased exposure concentration, duration, and frequency.

• In 1997, the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System reported that the rate of mesothelioma in men in the 7-county region of northeast Minnesota (where taconite mining is prevalent) was over 70% higher than the statewide average for the period 1988-1994. This high rate continued or increased through 1999.

• According to the Minnesota Dept. of Health, "Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer whose primary and only known cause is asbestos exposure, usually several decades prior to the time of diagnosis." Risks continue into the future even in the absence of ongoing exposure. Mesothelioma affects the lining of the chest wall or abdomen, and may spread to other areas of the body. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is less than one year.

• According to the CDC, "Cases of mesotheliomas have been reported after household exposure of family members of asbestos workers and in individuals without occupational exposure who live close to asbestos mines."

For More Information:


• asbestos/asbestos-in-the-home.html

• GTacAsbestosSCRelease10142013.pdf

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Compiled by Jenny Mahan, Registered Nurse