McIntyre Powder Project

 
 
 

Aluminum Dust Exposure & Health Issues

The McIntyre Powder Project is a voluntary registry to document health issues (particularly neurological) in miners or other workers who were exposed to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust in their workplaces.

The aim of the project is to provide a centralized place to gather information on the types of health issues found in workers who were exposed to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust, for the purposes of establishing the need for further research into the long-term health impacts of aluminum dust exposure, and to seek compensation for those workers who suffered health issues related to their occupational exposure.  

Ultimately, the Project will seek legislative changes to improve workplace safety and access to compensation for all workers who suffer health issues related to occupational disease or injury.

MINERS AFFECTED

From 1943 to approximately 1979-80, miners employed primarily in gold and uranium mines, and some base metal and radium mines in Canada (Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories), the United States, Belgian Congo, Western Australia, and Mexico were required to breathe in McIntyre Powder aluminum dust prior to each shift. Miners would undergo a mass “treatment” wherein canisters of McIntyre Powder aluminum dust would be dispensed via a compressed air system into the mine drys or specially constructed chambers.  All ventilation would be stopped during the aluminum dust dispersal, and miners were instructed to inhale the black fog of respirable aluminum dust deeply to protect themselves against silicosis.  The practice was mandatory and was given without medical supervision and in the absence of the prior informed consent of the miners.  Tens of thousands of miners would have been exposed to McIntyre Powder aluminum dust during the 36 years that the program ran.

OTHERS AFFECTED 

During the lifespan of the McIntyre Powder aluminum prophylaxis program, McIntyre Powder aluminum dust was also used to "treat" the employees of several non-mining industries in the United States and a few such industries in Canada. These industries included pottery manufacturers, foundries, silica brick manufacturers, and refractories.  

Unlike the "mass treatment" method of aluminum dust dispersal used for miners, the employees of these non-mining industries were given individualized McIntyre Powder aluminum dust inhalation "treatments".  During these individualized "treatment" sessions, the employee would inhale McIntyre Powder aluminum dust through a mouthpiece-hose apparatus attached to a ball mill that ground the aluminum into a very fine, respirable aluminum dust.

      Photo Courtesy of Charlie Angus

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