New research from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Council has found a link between developing Parkinson’s disease and exposure to McIntyre Powder, a type of aluminum dust.
The news is a big win for Janice Martell, founder of the McIntyre Powder Project, who has worked to prove the link since establishing the project in 2015.
“Finding this is a mixture of emotions,” said Martell, whose father, Jim Hobbs, is a hard-rock miner who died of Parkinson’s in 2017.
“I was very excited and then was horrified when you realized maybe if dad didn’t go to the mine, he wouldn’t suffer with Parkinson, he wouldn’t, you know … It was rude like that, and he wasn’t here to say. And that part difficult. “
The WSIB study was conducted by Dr. Paul Demers from the Occupational Cancer Research Center. This shows a statistically significant increase in risk of Parkinson’s disease in miners exposed to McIntyre Powder when compared to miners who are not exposed to dust.
The study was taken from the Mining Master File to use anonymous historical records to determine who is exposed to dust. The files are then linked to provincial health records.
“We worked with Dr. Demers at the Ontario Research Cancer Center and put together this research where he looked at the right mining master file, integrating it with people’s actual health outcomes in an anonymous way of looking,” said Aaron Lazarus, deputy communications resident for WSIB.
Martell said the news had come a long time.
“This became my life. I took time from family and friends and it has been everything I have focused on for at least the past six years.”
Lazarus said that WSIB had a number of claims related to McIntyre Powder that had not yet been made, or were given a temporary decision while awaiting the results of this study.
“We will move as quickly as possible to go through that claim,” he said. “(Think about them) one at a time and use this new information and evidence when we make a decision on that claim and return to the family as soon as possible with the decision on that claim.”
Martell does not expect to slow down anytime soon. With miners around the world exposed, he wants to make sure the findings in this study are widely known.
“This is used in the United States, it is used in dozens and dozens of factories that have silica dust in them so that workers there are exposed, western Australia, throughout Canada in many different workplaces,” he said.
However, researchers could not find an association between exposure to McIntyre Powder and other neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Martell said further research on other potential effects needs to be done.
“This study only looked at neurological disorders,” he said. “I have people on my list with high levels of respiratory conditions – cancer, cardiovascular disease, some autoimmune things, sarcoidosis and things like that – and this same research needs to happen in the same way to link the data to see if there is a level higher miners and at McIntyre miners. “
While Martell was discouraged he could not share the news with his father, he was proud that his inheritance would continue to live.
“Father, he will always help,” he said. “If someone needs a warehouse built or doing something like that, he will help.
“And now in his death, because he is brave enough to tell his story and let me do this project on his behalf, he will help many families.”
Anyone who might have been exposed to McIntyre Powder, or know someone who has, is encouraged to contact WSIB to see if a claim should be filed.