A tiny tin, a little larger than a D-cell battery, and full of very finely ground aluminium powder which was inhaled by miners around the world. It is alleged to have caused neurological conditions and other medical problems.

A tiny tin, a little larger than a D-cell battery, and full of very finely ground aluminium powder which was inhaled by miners around the world. It is alleged to have caused neurological conditions and other medical problems.
Photo Credit: Claude Martel

The McIntyre Powder case: miners and neurological disease: Update

Several years ago, Janice Martell’s father developed Parkinson’s but there was no history of that in the family.

However Jim Hobbs had been a miner, and was among those obliged by the mine to inhale clouds of microscopic aluminium powder every shift. It was called McIntyre Powder.
When her father, like many others, developed health problems, Janice tried to get help from the government’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (formerly Workman’s Compensation- WCB) but the claim was denied based on a unique ruling specifically applying to aluminium powder.

Since then she has been gathering stories and research in efforts to link the aluminium powder to the high percentage of neurological disease among exposed miners.
Janice Martel is currently working as an occupational health coordinator in Sudbury, at the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

Listen
Janice Martell, founder of *The McIntyre Powder Project,* continues to speak with miners exposed to McIntyre Powder to examine a potential link between the fine aluminium dust and neurological disorders.
Janice Martell, founder of *The McIntyre Powder Project,* continues to speak with miners exposed to McIntyre Powder to examine a potential link between the fine aluminium dust and neurological disorders. © CBC

Developed by the McIntyre mine in the 1940’s, the theory was that the powder would coat miner’s lungs and prevent silicosis. 

The powder was sold internationally so miners in many operations not only in Canada, but the United States, the Belgian Congo, Western Australia, and Mexico also were exposed.

McIntyre powder was in use from 1943 up until approximately 1979, mostly in gold and uranium mines. It was eventually quietly phased out as questions arose about a possible connection to damage to the nervous system.

Ms Martell’s father who worked in a mine where he and other miners were required to sit in a room and breathe for several minutes while the powder was dumped into the ventilation system before they were allowed to head out for a shift underground.

Janice Martel and her late father Jim Hobbs. He was exposed to MacIntyre Powder which is possibly connected to his developing Parkinson’s disease in his later years.
Janice Martell and her late father Jim Hobbs. He was exposed to McIntyre Powder which is possibly connected to his developing Parkinson’s disease in his later years. © supplied

After retirement, he and several of his fellow miners began to develop health problems.  In Jim Hobbs case, he had been suffering from Parkinson’s for years, and passed away in a nursing home on May 24 at the relatively young age of 76.

On screen- the mining company perspective on MacIntrye Powder: Janice Martel speaking Laurentian University as guest speaker at the April 28, 2017 National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job by injury or occupational disease.
On screen: the mining company perspective on McIntyre Powder: Janice Martell shown at Laurentian University as guest speaker at the April 28, 2017 National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job by injury or occupational disease. © Laurentian University

Martell says that it was not only miners who were exposed but many other workers who had to go underground including for example the mechanics, electricians, and lumbermen.

anice Martell has been encouraging former miners who may have been exposed to McIntyre Powder to step forward and attend information clinics.
Janice Martell has been encouraging former miners who may have been exposed to McIntyre Powder to step forward and attend information clinics or contact her through the Project website or Facebook site © Facebook/McIntyre Powder Project

As the project is becoming more widely known, other researchers and medical practitioners are becoming interested in the potential health effects resulting from exposure to the powder.

McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario has put forward a request for funds to test a sample of miners to determine if there is an elevated level of aluminium in miners bones.   Martel also says there has been interest expressed by researchers in Western Australia into the subject.

The headframe of the Rio Algo Quirke-2 mine where the late Jim Hobbs and many others were required to inhale MacIntrye Powder before heading underground. Many gold and uranium mines around the world used the powder.
The headframe of the Rio-Algo Quirke-2 mine where the late Jim Hobbs and many others were required to inhale MacIntyre Powder before heading underground. Many gold and uranium mines around the world used the powder. © courtesy Linda Demers

She notes that she now has 392 names on her registry of miners and more are expected as word continues to spread abut exposure to the aluminium dust.
She says the compensation board culture and attitude seems very much in favour of the companies, and against the workers. She says one of the goals of her campaign is to see the legislation governing that organisation changed.

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4 comments on “The McIntyre Powder case: miners and neurological disease: Update
  1. Rose-Marie Joanette says:

    The position of the WSIB is nonsensical. With all the research that has been done to date in regard to a myriad of chemical intrusions on a body confirmed to be hazardous, it is an insult and a travesty that the daughter of a deceased miner has been fighting to bring this to the fore for years. And, sadly now, she’s witnessed her dear father’s death. If I may, I’d like to say that the Goliath that is WSIB…you have met your David.

    • WOW! Thank you for the beautiful David-Goliath comment. I will try my best to bring to light what happened to these mine workers in Canada, Australia, Mexico, Belgian Congo, Chile, England (Geevor Tin Mine) and factory workers in many states in the U.S.A. International researchers are taking an interest in our workers and are looking for answers on the health effects of the aluminum dust that they were required to inhale as a job requirement. Thanks for your supportive words. – Janice (Hobbs) Martell, McIntyre Powder Project. http://www.mcintyrepowderproject.com/

  2. Fred Booth says:

    I’m so proud of Janice Martell for taking on such an enormous task, and fighting the compensation board, and the big mining conglomerates to help the miners and other workers. She is a godsend to disabled and retired miners that have health problems that are not presently “recognized” as job related. I thank Janice for all her efforts to help the worker.