Silicosis’s toxic legacy offers deadly lessons for today – by Mica Jorgenson (The Conversation – July 6, 2017)

https://theconversation.com/

“His cough is loose … considerable amount of thick, black expectoration … cannot run; in the past six months has lost 16 pounds in weight … has no appetite in the morning and feels shaky and dizzy … diagnosis: Extensive bilateral fibrosis due to silicosis.”

So reads the medical report on a Finnish miner in the October 1924 volume of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. He had been working at the Porcupine gold camp near Timmins, Ont., for nine years on the day of his examination. The mining boom, begun in 1909, attracted miners, geologists and investment from around the world. But the rock held a deadly secret. When subjected to blasting and grinding, it produced tiny needle-like silica shards which shredded human lungs, cutting working lives tragically short.

A century later, silicosis is making headlines in Canada, thanks largely to the work of Janice Martell. Inspired by her miner father Jim Hobbs, Martell began to document health issues associated with a silicosis “cure” made from aluminum called McIntyre Powder. This spring Hobbs died after a 16-year battle with Parkinson’s disease possibly related to aluminum exposure.

Researchers are still trying to understand the connection between aluminum inhalation and neurological disease. But a look back at Canada’s history of industrialization can help us understand why miners inhaled McIntyre Powder in the first place.

Silicosis did not appear in the Canadian lexicon until the turn of the 20th century. Ontario’s Workers Compensation Act officially included it in 1917, and the government compensated its first case in 1924.

For the rest of this article: https://theconversation.com/silicosiss-toxic-legacy-offers-deadly-lessons-for-today-79736

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