TORONTO, Oct. 11, 2017 /CNW/ - Former miners are dying of neurological and lung diseases. Steelworkers welcome the $1 million in new Ontario government funding, but regret that those who've already made claims won't be reconsidered.
"These miners were forced to inhale McIntyre Powder from the 1940s to the 1970s. Now, they're suffering and they're dying. So this funding to expand assessment is something. But it's not enough, and it's regrettable that it's only on a go-forward basis," said Marty Warren, United Steelworkers (USW) Ontario and Atlantic Director.
"These miners are dying. They and their families need more than assessments. They deserve more. We call for compensation," said Warren.
The $1 million in funding will go to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) to further study the links between miners forced to inhale McIntyre Powder and neurological and lung diseases developed later in life.
Between 1942 and 1979, employers required workers to inhale McIntyre Powder 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.
Victims of the 36-year use of McIntyre (aluminum) Powder at Ontario mines are dying of neurological and lung diseases.
The new funding will help assess more miners, though it is only half of the amount OHCOW requested and claims already filed by miners and their families will not be reconsidered for compensation.
"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 in closed rooms affected breathing, overall health and life expectancy."
Janice Martell is a tireless advocate on behalf of affected miners and their families. She began the McIntyre Powder Project after learning her father was not eligible for compensation. A former miner who had been forced to inhale McIntyre Powder as part of his work regime, Jim Hobbs developed neurological problems in retirement including Parkinson's disease. Hobbs died last May. Cases like Hobbs's will not be reconsidered under new government guidelines.
USW has been part of the McIntyre Powder Project, which includes OHCOW and Martell's work gathering evidence on the health of exposed miners.
"I would like to thank the United Steelworkers for initiating, organizing, and sponsoring the McIntyre Powder Intake Clinics in 2016, and for their continued work with the Intake Clinic partners in support of our affected mine workers and their families," said Martell.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Marty Warren, USW Ontario and Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792; Janice Martell, McIntyre Powder Project, 1-800-461-7120, [email protected]; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, [email protected]; Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario and Atlantic Health, Safety and Environment Co-ordinator, 905-741-9830, [email protected]