In 1979 the investigative TV program Fifth Estate (Powder Keg) reported on the controversial dust, McIntyre Powder. Used in Ontario from 1943 to 1980, miners were required to inhale the aluminum dust at the beginning of each shift as a preventive measure against the occupational lung disease, silicosis. Seeing the program many years later, Janice Martell wondered if there could be a link between this practice and the Parkinson’s disease from which her father, retired hard-rock miner Jim Hobbs, now suffered. Undeterred by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s response, to a claim filed, that no established link existed, Janice Martell researched government and company archives and reached out to other miners exposed to McIntyre powder. The creation of the McIntryre Powder Project in 2015 provided a centralized place for those exposed to register and document their health problems. Following the 2016 CBC interview for a Fifth Estate follow-up, the registry was quickly inundated, increasing from 135 to 363 names.
Important to be acknowledged, that it happened
Two years ago Dave Wilkin and his team at Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) teamed up with Janice Martell to hold intake clinics, and map and study health histories. OHCOW’s analysis found a “concerning” number of workers with neurological degenerative disorders, among which an abnormally high rate of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Based on their findings, further research will shortly be undertaken by Hamilton’s McMaster University, advancing the Project’s goal – “to prove anecdotal links have a basis in science, that McIntyre Powder did, indeed, cause disease and that miners who were exposed should therefore be compensated.”
- OPSEU Health & Safety. 2017 Apr. 3. “No Comp for the Widow”: A Social Justice Story
- Lian, Jean. 2017 Apr. 3. “When the Dust Settles” OHS Canada (feature article on history and current investigations)
- CBC. 2017 Apr. 6. Fifth Estate: More On the Miner’s Daughter – Aluminum Dust in Mining (video)
- CBC. 2016 Jan. 29. Fifth Estate: The Miner’s Daughter (video)
- CBC. 1979. Fifth Estate: Powder Keg (video)