OEM Research - Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education and Research Center

OEM Research

Taconite Workers Health Study


Minnesota houses one of the world’s largest bodies of iron ore, and supplies 65% of the ore needed for North American steel production. Mining has been conducted in the state since the early part of the previous century. During that time, thousands of workers have been employed in this industry. Worker studies in the early 1990s indicated the presence of abnormal chest x-rays, suggestive of silica-related exposures. More recently, a cohort of taconite workers has indicated an apparent excess of mesothelioma, as determined via the state’s cancer surveillance system. Although undoubtedly related to asbestos exposure, the exact cause of this problem and its significance, along with a comprehensive view of the health of this industry is being determined.

Led by several MCOHS investigators (Drs. Mandel, Alexander, Ramachandran, Raynor, Perlman), and involving students (Jooyeon Hwang, Elizabeth Allen, Nnaemeka Odo, Christine Lambert, Jinny Johnson, Monika Vadali), several worker studies are in progress and include:

  • Cohort mortality study of all causes of death in taconite workers (n=68,000);
  • Cancer incidence study that focuses on the major cancers associated with asbestos exposure;
  • Screening survey of occupational lung disease within current and former taconite workers and their spouses;
  • Workplace exposure assessment that utilizes current and past exposure data and complements the above-mentioned studies

Physical Fitness Program for Law Enforcement

law-enforcement-fitnessLaw enforcement officers must be physically fit to safely and effectively perform their jobs. Scientific literature suggests that law enforcement officers have lower than average physical fitness levels. Yet there are no national fitness standards for these officers.

MPH student, Christina Cusic, MD, designed a framework for developing fitness programs for law enforcement to address this need and decrease risk of illness and mortality. She used this framework to help develop a structured physical fitness program for the Plymouth, Minnesota Police Department. Over 55% of the officers participated in baseline fitness assessments and continue to exercise at the newly remodeled on-site facility. This framework is being used in other public safety departments for implementation of similar programs. Her work also supports the need for national fitness standards for law enforcement.