·  News@6

McIntyre Powder Miners Deserve More

Janice Martell’s father, Jim Hobbs, died last May. He was a McIntyre Powder miner and he had developed neurological problems in retirement including Parkinson’s disease.

Between 1942 and 1979, employers required workers to inhale McIntyre Powder (aluminum) in mines and other industries where workers might be exposed to silica dust. The theory, eventually proved false, was that inhaling the powder would protect workers' lungs.

Martell had tried to file a claim for compensation through Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) on behalf of her father while he was still alive, but withdrew the application once she realized his claim would be unsuccessful.

But she also realized that many other miners and their families might be experiencing similar diseases from forced inhalation of the powder. Martell became an advocate on behalf of affected miners and their families. The McIntyre Powder Project began.

In 2016, the USW organized intake clinics to collect information from exposed miners and their families with the help of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) including Martell, the Office of the Worker Advisor (OWA), local unions and volunteers.

The clinics, held in Timmins and Sudbury, did more than collect information. Survivors, spouses and their caregivers got help opening WSIB claims. They also got a chance to share stories and discover that they weren’t alone.

The plight of the miners has captured media attention with continuing coverage and investigations by CBC and The Toronto Star.

This work is gaining ground, but there is more to do and the injustice continues.

In August, the WSIB announced another study on the effects of exposure to McIntyre Powder.

In October, the Ontario government announced $1 million in new Ontario government funding to OHCOW to further study the links between miners forced to inhale McIntyre Powder and neurological and lung diseases developed later in life.

But existing claims for compensation won’t be reconsidered. And while the new funding will help assess more miners, it is only half of the amount OHCOW requested.

Meanwhile, victims of the 36-year use of McIntyre Powder are dying of neurological and lung diseases.

“These miners are dying. They and their families need more than assessments. They deserve more. We call for compensation now,” said Marty Warren, USW District 6 Director.


From News@6 Winter 2017 – a newsletter for USW members of District 6 (Ontario & Atlantic Canada)

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