The guest speaker at the North Bay and District Labour Council Annual Health and Safety Dinner Tuesday evening warned that workers forced to inhale aluminum powder are now suffering from diseases like Parkinson's.
Janice Martell, founder of the McIntyre Powder Project, told guests that she has been compiling a testimonial catalogue of miners to help convince WSIB and governments that the inhalation of McIntyre Powder while at work has caused neurological diseases.
The McIntyre Powder Project is a voluntary registry to document health issues, particularly neurological, in miners or other workers who were exposed to the dust in their workplaces.
The aim, according to Martell's website, is to provide a centralized place to gather information on the types of health issues found in workers who were exposed to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust, for the purposes of establishing the need for further research into the long-term health impacts of aluminum dust exposure, and to seek compensation for those workers who suffered health issues related to their occupational exposure.
"From 1943 to approximately 1979-80, miners employed primarily in gold and uranium mines, and some base metal and radium mines in Canada, the United States, Belgian Congo, Western Australia, and Mexico were required to breathe in McIntyre Powder aluminum dust prior to each shift. Miners would undergo a mass 'treatment' wherein canisters of McIntyre Powder aluminum dust would be dispensed via a compressed air system into the mine drys or specially constructed chambers. All ventilation would be stopped during the aluminum dust dispersal, and miners were instructed to inhale the black fog of respirable aluminum dust deeply to protect themselves against silicosis. The practice was mandatory and was given without medical supervision and in the absence of the prior informed consent of the miners. Tens of thousands of miners would have been exposed to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust during the 36 years that the program ran."
Martell's own father was exposed to aluminum powder while working in Ontario mines.
Meanwhile, Carole Ayotte, a staff member of Nipissing Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing and health and safety steward for USW 2020, won the Workers Health and Safety Centre Award.
"Carole has dedicated countless years of service to the safety of her workplace and is very deserving of this year’s award," said President Henri Giroux.