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WSIB Study Another Tactic to Avoid Compensation, Says Steelworkers' Director Marty Warren

TORONTO - While the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) spends years on yet another study, victims of the 36-year use of McIntyre (aluminum) powder at Ontario mines are dying of neurological and lung diseases with no compensation, says United Steelworkers' (USW) Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren.

"This is just another stalling tactic to avoid justice for workers who are suffering intolerable health problems caused by being made to inhale vast amounts of a thick, black, finely-ground aluminum over many years," said Warren.

USW has been part of the McIntyre Powder Project, which includes Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and Janice Martell, who has been gathering evidence on the health of exposed miners.

McIntyre Powder was used between 1943 and 1979 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.

"These workers were human guinea pigs," said Warren. "We have conducted intake clinics, where we interviewed former miners, survivors and caregivers. Everyone came with a story about how breathing in the dust – so thick you couldn't see – in closed rooms affected breathing, overall health and life expectancy.

"And yet the WSIB says it needs another study to decide if it should compensate people. It's a disgraceful tragedy that should have never happened, but must be acknowledged and reconciled with the benefits that are owed to workers and survivors."

Warren accused the WSIB of delaying until there are no claimants left.

"Are the bureaucrats just waiting for all the victims to pass away? This is no way to run a system that is supposed to support workers who are injured or made sick by their work."

The irony, said Warren, is that the WSIB announced it was repealing a policy that has been used to deny claims based on aluminum exposure. However, the repeal is said to be in effect on a "go-forward" basis and will not apply to workers who are currently waiting for a decision or an appeal on the denial of their entitlement.

"For the repeal of a policy to have any meaning at all, it must apply retroactively," said Warren. "It's time we had a system and a government that cares about the health of its most vulnerable citizens."

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For further information:

Marty Warren, USW Ontario and Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792
Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario and Atlantic Health, Safety and Environment Co-ordinator, ‪905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca
Janice Martell, McIntyre Project, 1-800-461-7120, jmartell@ohcow.on.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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