TORONTO – Leaders of the United Steelworkers union (USW) say a study proving the link between Parkinson’s disease and the use of McIntyre (aluminum) powder in Ontario mines should be applied to compensate miners across Canada.
“The study by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) and released by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) means compensation claims that were rejected will be reviewed, hopefully resulting in justice for survivors and families,” said USW District 6 Director Marty Warren. “This is a wonderful victory, but so many miners have died during the years it took for this conclusion to be reached.”
The USW has played a key role in the McIntyre Powder Project, which includes Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and led by Janice Martell, who has been gathering evidence on the health of exposed miners.
“We are proud to have supported Janice, who is truly a trailblazer and has worked so hard on behalf of her father and all other miners,” said Warren. “We are honoured to work with her. Sadly and ironically, Janice’s father passed away from the disease in 2017.”
McIntyre Powder was used between 1943 and 1979 in mines and other industries where workers might be exposed to silica dust. The theory, eventually proved false, was that inhaling the powder would protect workers’ lungs.
“These workers were human guinea pigs,” said Warren. “We have conducted intake clinics, where we interviewed hundreds of former miners, survivors and caregivers. Everyone came with a story about how breathing in the dust – so thick you couldn’t see – in closed rooms affected breathing, overall health and life expectancy.”
The study did not find an association between McIntyre Powder exposure and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or motor neuron disease. At the same time, it showed that miners overall had an increased risk compared to the general population. OCRC concluded that these other associations deserve further research.
USW National Director Ken Neumann said this clear conclusion linking McIntyre Powder to Parkinson’s disease must now be the basis for compensation across Canada.
“McIntyre Powder was also used extensively across Canada — in Quebec, British Columbia and in some mines in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and the Yukon,” said Neumann. “This is a national tragedy that needs to be followed up before we can ever close this shameful chapter in Canadian mining and industrial history.”
As well, said Neumann, McIntyre Powder was used worldwide, in mining and non-mining industries. Workers were also exposed to the powder at dozens of factories in the U.S. and in mines in Mexico and Western Australia.
Marty Warren, USW Ontario and Atlantic Canada Director, 416-243-8792
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Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Sylvia Boyce, USW Health, Safety and Environment Co-ordinator for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, 905-741-9830, firstname.lastname@example.org
Janice Martell, McIntyre Powder Project, 705-849-5802, email@example.com
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org