Can a link be made between aluminum powder administered to miners over more than three decades and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?
Advocates are hoping a growing body of anecdotal research will demonstrate a link between aluminum and occupational disease and force more scientific study on the subject.
In May, Timmins played host to an intake clinic designed to catalogue the experiences, job histories and illnesses of miners who have worked in Northern Ontario mines and were mandated to inhale a finely ground aluminum dust called McIntyre Powder as part of their employment.
Participants came by the dozens — from around the North, out of the province, and out of the country — and for those former miners who are now deceased, their families were there to advocate on their behalf.
The clinic was spearheaded by Janice Martell, an Elliot Lake woman who began researching the powder after her father, Jim Hobbs, a 30-year mining veteran, was denied a compensation claim by the Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) after he developed Parkinson’s disease in retirement.
As word spread, the United Steelworkers (USW), the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), and the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA) have come on board to support the initiative.
Martell felt her father, and miners like him, deserved to have a voice.
“I just think that their stories need to be heard, and at least now somebody’s looking into it and doing something, which is a lot more than what has been done in the past,” she said.
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