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Sudbury commemorates 80th anniversary of first McIntyre Powder use

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The 80th anniversary of the first use of McIntyre Powder in Ontario mines was commemorated in Sudbury on Thursday.

McIntyre Powder was created and first administered in the McIntyre Mine in Schumacher, just east of Timmins, in 1943.

Its use continued until 1979 and was mandatory for workers prior to entering the mines. Initially, it was thought to be protective, but was later linked to respiratory conditions and neurological disorders.

The commemoration took place at the United Steelworkers Hall, organized by the McIntyre Powder Project, which offers an online registry for miners affected by the use of McIntyre Powder to document their health effects and to create legislative change.

Another goal of the project is to inform workers of compensation benefits for health effects.

Janice Martell, organization founder, saw her father suffer with Parkinson's disease and later chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a result of McIntyre Powder exposure while working in the mines.

"My dad is the reason I started the McIntyre project, but all these guys are the reason I continue," Martell said.

In Ontario alone, Martell said 27,500 people were exposed to the aluminum dust.

"It went across the US, Quebec, other areas in Canada, Australia, down to Mexico," she said.

"I just wanted to mark that anniversary and I wanted to let these workers know they're seen, because when you're underground, you're literally not being seen."

The 80th anniversary of the first use of McIntyre Powder in Ontario mines was commemorated in Sudbury on Thursday. (Amanda Hicks/CTV news)

There was a moment of silence as slideshow rolled commemorating close to 200 workers. A banner was later unveiled with 223 photos of 197 mine workers.

Martell said that's just a fraction of the number of people impacted.

"It was three seconds per picture, it took us 10 minutes to watch and those miners represent 0.7 per cent of the 27,500 miners in Ontario alone," she said.

"If you watched three seconds of each miner exposed, it would take us 23 hours to watch -- that’s how vast this was. And that was just in Ontario, so it was really important for me to let these guys know they're remembered and acknowledged."

Nine former miners affected by McIntyre Powder were in attendance, including Robert McLean.

McLean developed pulmonary fibrosis from mining through extended use of McIntyre Powder, working in gold mines in Elliot Lake and throughout northern Ontario.

'SO MANY OF THEM ARE NO LONGER WITH US'

"I saw many picture of the miners from the gold mines up north and those in Elliot lake and so many of them are no longer with us," he said.

"It's really heartwarming to see people you know, that you worked with, when I was a supervisor at the uranium mines."

On the 80th anniversary, McLean said he is grateful to be alive.

"Three of my brothers went through the same environment as myself, two of them are no longer with us and one of them has Parkinson's and that’s caused by McIntyre powder," he said.

More information about the McIntyre Powder Project can be found here.

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