Administered as an antidote to silicosis, McIntyre Powder has become anything but the miracle cure it was touted to be in its early days.
As part of the Workplace Safety North conference on health and safety in mining, the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers presented findings from clinics they conducted, during which they interviewed current and former miners. They registered 325 miners, all male, all born between 1876 and 1963. They looked at instances of respiratory and neurologic symptoms. Their findings were telling.
“There are a number of important findings related to existing literature,” Dave Wilken, chief operating officer of OHCOW, told the audience. “Those are mainly neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular.”
Of their sample, 255 miners had respiratory problems, which could include shortness of breath, persistent coughing, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Twenty-six miners had asthma, while 17 were diagnosed with lung cancer.
More problematic were OHCOW’s findings regarding neurological conditions. Five had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), although six more miners have since presented with a diagnosis, bringing the total to 11. ALS is a slow killer, paralyzing the body and robbing sufferers of their ability to swallow, speak and breathe.
Most miners – 247 – had some kind of neurological symptom, including memory loss (108), loss of sensation (105), tremors (63), recurring headaches (57), dizziness (57), difficulty speaking (51) and confusion (47).
Sadly, 31 miners had received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and 41 had been diagnosed with either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. From 1943 to roughly 1980, the black powder was sprayed into the lungs of miners just coming onto shift.
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