On Minnesota's Iron Range, debate has long simmered over the potential link between taconite dust and the region's high rate of an always-fatal cancer known as mesothelioma. A compromise announced last week between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Iron Range DFL delegation should finally settle the matter.
Mesothelioma occurs in the lung lining and is usually linked to asbestos exposure. But taconite contains asbestos-like fibers. Although state researchers in 2003 concluded that commercial asbestos exposure was the most likely explanation for the high rate of mesothelioma, controversy continued. The Minnesota Health Department did its credibility no favors last year when it admitted that it sat on data showing that cases continued to climb dramatically among the region's iron-ore miners. Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach resigned after the revelation.
The recent compromise will provide $4.9 million for a new study led by the University of Minnesota. The money will come from a state workers' compensation fund surplus. That's not an ideal choice. This public health problem should be studied with funds generated by general taxes, not business fees.
But it's past time to stop fussing over the means, and get to the bottom of this epidemic. Delay may be putting lives at risk. The region and its miners deserve answers.Legislators act to make pools safer this summer
There are no such things as Republican pools or DFL pools, state Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, noted Wednesday. In Minnesota, all there should be are safe public pools.
With a clearly bipartisan voice vote, the Senate concurred, giving preliminary approval to a measure that will bring some 1,500 more public pools under state licensure requirements, and require entrapment-proof drains and daily hands-on inspection of drain function.
If the House acts similarly in the next several days, as expected, the new requirements will be in place for this summer's recreation season. And the Legislature will have made good on Edina father Scott Taylor's promise to his 6-year-old daughter Abigail before she died -- that he would do everything he could to make sure no other child was grievously injured, as she was, by a faulty wading pool drain.
Taylor told reporters before the Senate acted that he won't consider his promise fulfilled after the Legislature acts, even though he has already succeeded in lobbying for tougher federal requirements as well. States control pool-safety enforcement, he noted. He's bravely making plans to take his story to neighboring states.