Squabble over a cancer study

Funding a study of cancer on the Iron Range should be granted without any more fighting.

There’s been no shortage of battles at the state Capitol this year, but one of the most recent is also one of the most baffling. At issue is the funding of study to further understand the blight of mesothelioma among miners throughout Minnesota’s Iron Range. This type of lung cancer, which is usually linked to asbestos exposure, has turned up in surprising numbers among miners. Already 58 have died, and dozens more have been diagnosed. A study, to be conducted by the University, would help identify the cause of this disaster, but lawmakers and the governor have been sparring over the source of funding for the study.

The study would cost $4.9 million – a paltry amount to spend on a public health crisis, but the funding source has quickly become a source of controversy. When legislators proposed funding the study from a state workers compensation fund, Gov. Pawlenty threatened to veto the legislation. The governor wants to fund the study through the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, but opponents say this would come right out of the pockets of the Iron Range. They’re right; the cancer study is the concern of the entire state and should be funded accordingly.

Both sides have now reached a tentative agreement, and it seems that the funding will be granted, but it’s a shame that our elected leaders botched such an easy issue. Increased rates of mesothelioma have been observed on the Iron Range since the late 1980s, and this study is long overdue. While egos at the Capitol are often unyielding, all parties should put aside grudges and political threats to make this happen. This is a burden the state must shoulder; we should never make state residents worry that their health will take a backseat to politics.