NSC Labor Division news Occupational illnesses Research/studies Silica Workplace exposures Mining_Oil_Gas

Ontario to grant compensation to miners who developed Parkinson’s after inhaling McIntyre Powder

Reprints
mcintyre-powder.jpg
There are four known canisters of McIntyre Powder that were used between 1943 and the 1980s. The white can pictured here is the original canister. The canister on the far right states: "For silicosis therapy. For use only under doctors direction." Photo: Janice Martell and CBC

Toronto — A recent decision by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to formally recognize Parkinson’s disease as an occupational disorder linked to McIntyre Powder exposure guarantees provincial compensation benefits to affected workers and their families, Minister of Labor Monte McNaughton has announced.

From 1943 to 1979, the “finely ground aluminum dust” was administered to numerous Canadian miners and other workers because it was believed to prevent the development or worsening of silicosis when inhaled, the Ministry of Labor, Training and Skills Development states.

However, the United Steelworkers of Canada claims the practice actually “made workers sick and led to many deaths.”

Responding to concerns about the substance, WSIB commissioned a team led by researchers from Canada’s Occupational Cancer Research Center to examine the relationship between occupational exposure to aluminum and adverse health effects, including neurological conditions.

Released in March 2020, report findings show that miners exposed to McIntyre Powder are at a statistically significant increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

The action by WSIB to add Parkinson’s disease in workers exposed to McIntyre Powder to its list of presumptive occupational diseases, effective Jan. 27, amends Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

“When someone gets sick, we all ask, ‘Why?’” WSIB President and CEO Jeff Lang said in a press release. “We now have clear scientific evidence that exposure to McIntyre Powder is connected to Parkinson’s disease. Adding this presumption to the regulation is the final step so that people know there will be no hassles or hurdles, just help.”

The ministry asserts that the change allows claims adjudicators “to make decisions more quickly and efficiently, and expedite claim approvals for affected workers and their families.”

The action is “just a start,” McNaughton said. “Our government will continue to make investments to help identify and recognize occupational illnesses and support those who have been injured by exposure on the job.”

USW Canada, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and other worker advocacy organizations welcomed the announcement.

 

Janice Martell, who campaigned for years for government recognition of ailments related to McIntyre Powder, also applauded the decision. Martell founded the McIntyre Powder Project in honor of her late father, Jim Hobbs, a former underground miner who inhaled the powder before work shifts in 1978 and 1979. Hobbs was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001 and died in 2017.

“My dad did not live to see this day,” Martell said in a press release, “but it is a fitting legacy to a man who always enjoyed ‘breaking the trail’ during our winter walks, because he wanted to make the path easier for those coming behind him. Now, other workers who are struggling with occupational disease, and the families of workers who have died, will be able to pursue the compensation they deserve and find some measure of justice.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)