Workers Health & Safety Centre

Fifth Estate to air follow-up program on miners exposed to McIntyre Powder

Fifth Estate to air follow-up program on miners exposed to McIntyre Powder
CBC’s Fifth Estate will be airing a follow-up story about miners forced to breathe in aluminum dust to supposedly prevent them from contracting silicosis.
 
Decades later some of these miners are suffering from neurological effects, while others have gone on to develop silicosis despite the treatments.
 
In response, workers, their families and unions are again raising important questions.
 
The CBC story will air on:
 
Friday, January 29, 2016 on the Fifth Estate at 9 p.m. (CBC television, check local listings).
 
This follow-up story stems from a September 1979 episode of the Fifth Estate called "Powder Keg".  During the episode, Fifth Estate host Ian Parker reported on the controversial, government-sanctioned, employer-mandated, Ontario practice of exposing mine workers to aluminum dust (called McIntyre Powder after the mine that patented it). Prior to each shift this black dust was filtered directly into the locker room and workers were directed to breathe in deeply. The dust was purported to coat the miners’ lungs and protect them from the dangerous effects of silica dust.
 
The process had been banned in England, Sweden and South Africa and many scientists, some of whom Parker interviewed on camera, claimed the process was ineffective and potentially toxic.
 
Thirty-seven years later the Fifth Estate will examine the health outcomes of affected miners. One of the miners profiled is Jim Hobbs, a retired Elliot Lake miner, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a condition his daughter, Janice Martell, believes is associated with his workplace exposure to aluminum dust.
 
The work of Martell, founder of the McIntyre Powder Project, will also be highlighted in the CBC segment.
 
The McIntyre Powder Project is a voluntary registry to document health issues (particularly neurological) in miners or other workers who were exposed to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust in their workplaces.  Ultimately, the Project will seek compensation for those workers who suffered health issues related to their occupational exposure, as well as legislative and policy changes to improve workplace safety.
 
Working closely with Martell is District 6 of the United Steelworkers Union (USW) in collaboration with the Office of the Worker Advisor (OWA), Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
 
The Steelworkers will hold a related occupational disease clinic:
 
Occupational Disease Clinic
When: May 11 and 12, 2016
Where: McIntyre Community Centre, 85 McIntyre Road, Timmins, Ontario
 
Should you wish to volunteer for this clinic send an email to Sylvia Boyce, USW District 6, Health and Safety Coordinator: sboyce@usw.ca.
 
For our part, WHSC offers a wide range of training programs and resources to help workplace parties understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to workplace hazards including the prevention of toxic exposures. Many of these resources also offer essential insight into the information and tools needed to eliminate or reduce harmful workplace and environmental exposures.
 
To learn more:

Call:     1-888-869-7950
Visit:    www.whsc.on.ca 
Email:  contactus@whsc.on.ca

Want to know more about the McIntyre Powder Project?
 
Want to link to the McIntyre Powder Project’s website?
 
Want to view the Fifth Estate September 1979 episode “Powder Keg”?