ELLIOT LAKE – A retired miner whose deteriorating health triggered a campaign to investigate the residual effects of McIntyre Powder has died. Jim Hobbs passed away May 24 at the Espanola Nursing Home at the age of 76.
His daughter Janice Martell began an effort to link neurological diseases in former gold and uranium miners to the aluminum dust they were forced inhale by their employers after her father developed Parkinson’s disease.
Hobbs worked at the Quirke II uranium mine in Elliot Lake where the powder was used extensively. Martell’s inability to get workers’ compensation for her father prompted her in 2014 to start up the McIntyre Powder Project, which is a research initiative.
The powder, which she believes contributed to her father getting Parkinsons, was developed by the McIntyre Mine and sold to other mining companies with the belief that it would protect the underground workers from lung disease. It was thought that coating miners’ lungs with aluminum dust would protect them from contracting silicosis.
From 1943 to approximately 1979, gold and uranium mines across Canada, the United States, the Belgian Congo, Western Australia, and Mexico adopted the use of this powder. But mines stopped using it after research began pointing at the potential that long-term exposure to aluminum could damage the nervous system.
Since launching the McIntyre Powder Project, Martell, with support from United Steelworkers union and Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers, has hosted several intake clinics in Timmins and Sudbury.
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