[Mining] Project aims to link powder with diseases – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – October 4, 2016)


The voice of James Johnson Hobbs, 76, may have been silenced by Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder daughter Janice Martell believes was caused by a substance inhaled in his workplace.

As long as she draws breath, the Elliot Lake woman will fight to tell the stories and be the voice of thousands of miners exposed to aluminum dust and try to win compensation for their illnesses.

As many as 20,000 miners were exposed to a dust called McIntyre powder, developed at McIntyre Mine in Timmins more than 60 years ago. The premise behind the powder was that it would coat the lungs of workers heading into gold and uranium mines, and prevent them from contracting deadly silicosis.

More than half a century later, there is no evidence it prevented silicosis and, in fact, it may have caused respiratory and other problems in workers who breathed it in.

Martell firmly believes it caused her father’s neurological illness as well as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias from which former miners suffered.

A University of Toronto study of stored aluminum dust in 1987 prompted the Ministry of Labour to do a study that showed miners exposed to McIntyre powder scored “statistically worse” on “Alzheimer’s tests” than did miners not exposed to the dust.

“That was the first real finding to show that McIntyre powder could have been a neuro-toxin,” Martell said at the Steelworkers’ Hall on Monday.

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