But he also said it's clear that the industry shouldn't wait for more answers.
"No matter how you look at it, this is dusty work, and it demands that workers and employers take responsibility to safeguard themselves," Mandel told the meeting where they present the study results.
The Taconite Workers Health Study found that death rates in the industry are also higher than state averages for more common kinds of lung cancer and for heart disease, which suggests that other health conditions are also at work — and lifestyle appears to be an important factor.
The death rates were higher than expected across the Range from all three diseases and were not concentrated in any particular location.
The study confirmed that air quality in Iron Range communities is better than in most parts of Minnesota in terms of particulates. It also found that occupational exposures to taconite dust are generally within safe limits. And it found that spouses of taconite workers aren't at any higher risk of contracting dust-related lung diseases than the general public.
"Although working in the taconite industry increases a person's lifetime risk of mesothelioma, the increase equates to a small risk of actually developing the disease. Mesothelioma is still a very rare disease," the statement said.