Powder in mines linked to disease – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – February 15, 2016)


Intake clinics to be held in Timmins in May could produce data showing a link between a deadly powder used in mines for more than 35 years and the incidence of neurological disease in miners.

United Steelworkers Local 6500 is working with Janice Martell of Elliot Lake on what she calls the McIntyre Powder Project, a campaign she began in 2014. Martell is convinced her father, Jim Hobbs of Massey, contracted Parkinson’s disease from the aluminum dust he breathed while working in Elliot Lake’s uranium mines.

Canisters of aluminum dust, produced by McIntyre Mine in Timmins, were sold to mining companies and used to fog dries or change rooms for miners as well as some areas underground.

It was thought coating the lungs with aluminum would prevent workers from contracting silicosis from breathing in silica dust, often a byproduct of mining.

JP Mrochek, a compensation officer for USW Local 6500, says the May 11 and 12 intake clinics at the Ramada Inn may help solve the mystery of whether McIntyre Powder is linked with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS.

The clinics may provide answers “to something that’s been a black eye, I think, in the mining community in Northern Ontario,” said Mrochek. “If it does show elevations, well now this is tools and scientific literature that can support people like Janice Martell and initiate claims for her father.”

Hobbs applied to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for compensation for the disease he and his daughter believe was caused by his occupation. The claim was denied because there is a lack of scientific evidence to associate exposure to aluminum dust with Parkinson’s.

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