T182. The McIntyre Powder Project

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 182
Panelists: Janice Martell, Dr. Richard Denton, and Dr. Keith Meloff
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired: 9 February 2021
Date Transcribed: 18 February 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

Metta Spencer

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer. And we’ve been talking quite a bit lately about uranium mining. Because one of our main concerns project save the world is about radioactive contamination. So of course, we talk, there’s a lot of radioactive contamination in Canada, I would say, especially in Ontario, because we depend so much on nuclear power. But and so I’ve had a lot of friends who’ve been here talking about the dangers of nuclear waste and problems about mining. Now, I think we need to go a little bit beyond that, because there are other kinds of issues involved in mining as well. health issues, and I would say even they involve human rights issues, because public health and human rights converge at a certain point when you get people being forced to take measures that may not be for their own health, but for other reasons. So, I’ve become acquainted with a lady who is very concerned about an issue called McIntyre pot powder. Her name is Janice Martel,

Nice to join you, Metta. Thank you so much for having me here.

Metta Spencer

It’s wonderful to see you. And I’ve also invited a couple of physicians who are knowledgeable about these matters. Dr. Richard Denton is a dear friend of mine who works quite a lot on the public health safety of mining and exposure to radiation. And he and Janice both live in Sudbury now. So, they’re just about to get acquainted. And Dr. Keith Meloff is a physician who has done work on precisely the health issues that Janice is so concerned about.

Richard Denton / Keith Meloff

Okay, good.

Metta Spencer

I’d like to start off by asking Janice Martell to tell us her story. She’s the founder of the McIntyre Powder project. And tell me about it.

Janice Martell

Well, the McIntyre powder project is a bit of an Erin Brockovich type of project. Basically, my father, his name is Jim Hobbs. He was an underground miner in Elliott Lake Ontario and in the uranium mines. He also worked in the Sudbury area mines. But when he went to Elliot lake in 78, he started underground there and had to breathe in a finely ground aluminum-oxide dust called McIntyre powder. It was named after the McIntyre mine in Timmins, Schumacher, Ontario, developed there in the late 1930s. And by the early 1940s, it was being used in all of the gold mines in the Timmins area, sort of sequentially, and it was introduced into uranium mines in the late 50s and early 60s. And the McIntyre powder was theorized to prevent silicosis, so that the theory was that if you inhale this into your lungs, it would affect the solubility, the aluminum particles would engulf the crystalline silica, which is very sharp-edged pieces of, of silica that happen when you — they’re contained in the ore bodies high in amounts in uranium and gold mining. And when you break apart that rock in mining, this crystalline silica — they, the miners are inhaling this dust. And it can cause scarring in the lungs and make the lungs less flexible so that you can’t breathe. This is silicosis, and the rates of silicosis are really high in, particularly in the in the Porcupine mining camps, around Timmins, and mining executives there came up with this theory, in conjunction actually with the Banting Institute in in Toronto, [it] had some involvement in in trying to solve this silicosis issue. And they started applying miners with it —

Metta Spencer

Excuse me, but what would be the symptoms of silicosis? Anyway, in other words, we were going to pre- it prevented disease but I don’t know what that disease would have looked like.

Janice Martell

So, it like I say, you’re breathing in these this crystalline silica molecule molecules, it causes scarring in the lungs, so it makes the lungs less elastic so that it’s harder and harder to breathe. People with silicosis, they have you know, sort of caved in chests because they have a hard time getting their breath. They can have a very blue appearance or you know…. It leads to death and in in Elliott Lake where the crystalline silica content is that much higher in the in the mines, probably close to double what it is in the gold mines. You had miners dying in the late 1960s, early, early 1970s, for mines that just opened in the 1950s. And usually silicosis has a, you know, a 20, 20+ year course before it would lead to death, but they were dying in droves in the what fraction of the of the miners whatever, contract that disease. It’s been a while since I looked at those stats. There was a survey done in in the late 1920s, I believe, by the one of the Interior ministries, to look into it, the Sudbury rates were quite a bit lower because their silica content in the rock was quite a bit lower. And Dr. Meloff is showing you a canister of McIntyre powder, aluminum dust. So, they would grind up this aluminum dust put it into these canisters. And for miners before they went underground, on shift, they would have a formula for the room content. So, it was one gram per 1000 cubic feet of room content. And they would so they would put so many canisters in a compressed airline, they would puncture them and send out this blast of aluminum dust that as miners are changing their clothes to go underground, getting into their work clothes, they would be inhaling this for generally around 10 minutes, or so sometimes a little bit more, but usually around that that amount of time, before they went underground. So, it was a it was a forced… there was no informed consent. They certainly didn’t know. You know, they were just told to breathe deep This is gonna prevent silicosis — there was no, you know, here’s the risks, here’s the benefits. And they really didn’t know. The documentation that I looked at. said it would take at least 15 years before they even know if it had any effect on silicosis. They had no control group for this. It was just a forced human experimentation, public health, industrial health experiment that was conducted from officially from 1943 until 1979. It was a Fifth Estate episode, in a Toronto Star, you know, copro- investigation that really shut that down in, in September 1979.

Richard Denton

They, they take an elevator down the shaft, a stunning depth, actually. And before in the elevator, they blew in this aluminum oxide dust, it was like a cloud of smoke that they were inhaling before they went down the cage all the way into the mine. So, this was a procedure where they actually took numerous breaths of this very fine black or gray powder, depending on the composition at the time, into their lungs.

Janice Martell

Right before they went underground… yeah, it was done before they got into the shaft but in the mine dry or in Quirke Lake where my dad mined where my dad worked, they actually had a like a tunnel between where they, you know, got out of their street clothes and stuff and into their work clothes and they had to sit in that tunnel. And there was no way of going around it, you got locked in there. So, it was basically forcible confinement and forced aluminum dust inhalation as a condition of employment. So, if they, you couldn’t avoid it, you would get suspended if, or threatened with your job loss if you know if you fail to do it, so. So, my dad ended up with Parkinson’s 10 years after the mines closed, and my, and I knew nothing about McIntyre Powder. He didn’t talk about it at the time. I was 11 and 12 at the, at the time that he got it. So you know, I’m a kid I don’t, you know, it’s not something that he would talk to me about anyways. But when I found out about it 10 years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I wanted to know more. So, I started doing research on it. And initially there was there was basically there was two references to McIntyre powder on the internet, when I first looked into it, and one was a study that was done with by Sandra Rifat and colleagues out of the University of Toronto from a 1990 study where she actually compared, she did a mental, mini-mental status, examination. So, the kinds of tests that you would give to determine if there was any kind of dementia, she gave those to miners who had received the aluminum dust and miners who did not. And there was a statistically significantly fact for cognitive impairment in the miners who got the aluminum dust and the longer that they had been exposed to it the worse that that cognitive impairment was so it was like a dose-response relationship.

Metta Spencer

Did it look like dementia or did it just have other quality psychological qualities?

Janice Martell

It was it was a cognitive deficit. So, they didn’t, they struggled more with cognitive functioning. That’s how that’s what that study came out with. So, and the only other reference on the Internet at that time when I looked at it in 2011, was the mining Hall of Fame and it had the general manager from McIntyre Porcupine mines R. J. Ennis and you know, talked about how he cured silicosis in miners, cured that disease by introducing the aluminum dust. So, it was a real vacuum of information out there. I spoke to somebody at the United Steelworkers who had worked in Elliott Lake, and he said, you need to talk to you need to Google ‘McIntyre Research Foundation’. And when I did that there was a hit at the Ontario archives. So, I went to the archives of Ontario and did research there. I went through all of the McIntyre Research Foundation’s archival funds. And then from there started, you know, talking to miners and creating a voluntary registry to see what kind of health issues there were. And I have 545 on my volunteer registry, and I think it’s 53 of them have Parkinson’s. So that it led to that kind of sort of basic mobilizing and mapping of what kinds of health issues are there led to further study. And in 2020, we, the Occupational Cancer Research Center, just published, released their findings of a study that they did, that compared the neurological disease rates in miners who did not get the aluminum dust miners who did get the aluminum dust, and then the general population of Ontario, and it found a statistically significantly higher rate of Parkinson’s in the miners who got McIntyre powder. So, they started to compensate those miners, including my dad.

Metta Spencer

Well did it help with the silicosis in the long run?

Janice Martell

No. There was a Western Australian study, this was this spread out, the use in several countries, not just in mining, actually, in the United States. It was used in dozens and dozens of silica-dust producing factories. But the it was used in the Western Australia gold mines and a study in 2013 found that it had no impact on silicosis rates at all. And there were, that study found that there may be higher incidence of cardiovascular issues. So sudden death by cardiovascular in the miners who got it and potentially higher risk of Alzheimer’s. That’s what that study.

Richard Denton

It is the case… I was a neurologist that served in the underserviced area program of the Ministry of Health for a long time, the better part of 30 years. So, I was a traveling neurologist or an itinerant neurologist based principally in Timmins. But I actually would see patients literally all-over northern Ontario, and even as far north, northwest to Sioux Sainte Marie and Thunder Bay, and also by telemedicine either based in Timmins, which was the beginning actually of telemedicine to the north. And it had a co-location was with Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. So those were those were the two actual sites for telemedicine. So, I consulted with people, even as far as the James Bay and the western shore, James Bay, Moose Factory and so on that I saw, a lot of people, underground miners who are exposed to the aluminum oxide and who also had early onset of dementia and other neurological disorders including Parkinson’s and Parkinson-related illnesses. In other words, Parkinson lookalikes. They weren’t Parkinson’s, but they were Parkinson-like diseases.

Metta Spencer

To ask a dumb question, because I did Google this. And one of the things they talked about was Parkinson’s disease, and Parkinson-ism. Those are two different things.

Keith Meloff

Yeah, that’s a very good question. But and in fact, it’s still in evolution because there’s an ever-increasing number of Parkinsonisms, where we are understanding the pathology is not the same as in, if you will, standard Parkinson’s disease. In any event, it is also the case and I would like to make this brief but it is the case that I collaborated because I worked in pharmaceuticals as well. Aluminum can be chelated as lead can be – copper – you can actually suck it out of the blood with medication.

Metta Spencer

I’ve heard it as some sort of offbeat treatment for some diseases, right?

Keith Meloff

But it’s actually true.

Metta Spencer

I never heard it explained what is chelation?

Keith Meloff

So what it is, is these molecules, metal molecules, iron, aluminum, copper, manganese, lead, they can be che-, there are agents that will suck them out of the blood. The lead is a toxin, ubiquitous toxin, mercury is another, some of them are harder to — so there are actual chemicals that have been around for a long time like pharmaceutical pharmaceuticals that have been around for a very long time, British anti-Lewisite, so on… And there’s one in particular that draws out iron and aluminum and it’s called Desferrioxamine and why is this important? Because there is a population of people who get the disease called thalassemia, you may or may not have heard of thalassemia, it’s actually fairly common, even in Timmins, because it is a disease that’s hereditary that afflicts people from the Mediterranean area, like Italy and Greece and so on. And there were a lot of Italian miners who had this. They would have —

Metta Spencer

I know Nancy Olivieri, who goes to Sri Lanka, I believe, well, I worked with her, with –maybe the Sri Lankans have a high incidence of it, or,

Richard Denton

Actually, we had this molecule — Ciba Geigy. It’s a Swiss company that’s now called Novartis, it’s a colossal Swiss pharma company. They made two key leaders Desferrioxamine which is given by injection, and Desferrel which is oral, and Nancy worked on a drug called Desferrel for thalassemia is a big controversy about that which I don’t want to get into. Fact of the matter is that drug is approved for oral treatment for iron overload, iron overload, specifically for thalassemia, (which is a disease we don’t need to talk about) — but it also sucks out aluminum from the blood. And Dr. McLachlan, Dr. Donald Crapper McLachlan, at the University of Toronto was very, very focused on aluminum toxicity. He was convinced that aluminum was a major contributor to Alzheimer’s disease. He was convinced of it. And he had the brains of miners that were donated to his laboratory in Toronto. Forever. I have tried in vain to find out where those brains are. No one seems to know. It is the case that they likely perished because the freezer that contained those brains broke down in a power shortage at the Tanz Institute [Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Disease] at College Street and University Avenue in Toronto, and have been forever lost. But I don’t know. And I’ve actually contacted people who do know, and the people who do know, don’t know where those brains have gone, which is very unfortunate. It’s America launched.

Metta Spencer

Are you saying that because they’re lost, nobody really knows whether Alzheimer’s or is caused by affected by aluminum?

Keith Meloff

I mean, well, it’s complicated because we, clinically these patients clinically had Alzheimer’s. And that is unequivocal. Dr. McLachlan showed us an experiment which Janice just alluded to, that Desferrioxamine slowed the progression of patients who were exposed to aluminum. It slowed their progression of dementia compared to a group of patients who’ve got a sham injection of drug. And that was published in The Lancet several years ago. And it’s an interesting publication. It’s not a perfect publication, but it’s a very suggestive publication. That Desferrioxamine actually might be useful in treating miners who are exposed to aluminum. It’s not the story is not easy, and he was part of a group scientists, one in Kentucky, who really believed that aluminum was toxic to the brain. And we have aluminum, not just for our mines, but we bake in aluminum, aluminum foil, we have underarm deodorants that are largely aluminum based. So, there’s other environmental toxicities you know, that we’re susceptible to from aluminum in the environment, it’s ubiquitous in our environment, because we eat with it all the time. A lot of food is made in aluminum. Cooking. So —

Janice Martell

if I can interject a bit, the one of the, one of the primary things that differentiates, I think with McIntyre powder is the fine ground aspect of it that it’s in the fine particulate and ultra-fine particulate size. So, we are wondering, beyond the aluminum if the, if the particle size, particulate size itself is causing problems. So, Andrew Zarnke, my, my colleague, at the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers, he’s doing studies on, that, he analyzed canisters of McIntyre powder, and found that it you know, it was in this extremely fine particulate size — in the, you know, things like air pollution where you have this fine, this beyond ultra-fine and fine and fine particulate — they have higher issues of cardiovascular disease and things like that. So those nanoparticles in and of themselves have been found throughout the body in the brain. And one of the concerns that we’re looking at is, is that particulate size itself is that the issue, the formulation of McIntyre powder, was changed in 1956. To make it even more fine. They wanted to, they wanted it to get down to the deepest recesses of the lung. And the Occupational Cancer Research Center study that was published last year showed that was released last year, showed that any mine worker who had the formulation post-1956 had an even higher risk of Parkinson’s. So, it does tend to make us think along those lines, that’s something that we need to investigate a little bit further, with respect to, you know, not just the fact that it was aluminum, but the way the manner in which it was distributed, you know, right before they went underground. I mean, when you are an underground miner, you are exposed to all kinds of, you know, silica, silica dust, diesel exhaust, there’s different kinds of toxins that you are — and some of them are carcinogenic: diesel exhaust… silica dust… arsenic — there’s things that you can be exposed to, in that environment. And right before you go underground to do that, your lungs are being overwhelmed by this, you know, it’s not like you’re, you know, the WSIB time-weighted in over an eight-hour shift. Well, that’s not how it was delivered, you had this extreme dose, right before you go on underground and overwhelmed the lungs’ systems, their natural ability to clear out, clear out dust particles. And so, you have this compromised lung and you’re in there with no ventilation because the specific instructions from the McIntyre Research Foundation, which were the mining industry executives, and some industry doctors, from this foundation, their specific instructions were that you were to have no, you know, airflow, so close all the doors, seal them, you know, get rid of any windows, or at least seal them up, and have no ventilation while you’re taking this stuff. So, you’ve compromised your lungs right before you’re now exposing them to all of these other toxins underground. So those are some of the areas of research that we’re wanting to look into further, beyond just the fact that it was aluminum, because there’s no other population in human history that was exposed to aluminum in this way. You know, this finely ground aluminum dust that they were forced to inhale. So, it’s some of the other studies can be you know, can certainly bring up concerns and things that we want to look at. But there’s this also this other aspect of it that that is really we need to study these particular miners, and in it, one of the human rights issues for me, apart from the lack of informed consent, and that they were essentially in these gas chambers, is that there was no follow up. Once they you know, once they just discontinued it, it was like, Oh, well — you started this human experiment and they — inefficient, they need to follow up with these miners and find out what happened to them? And that’s what I set out to do. And that’s what’s —

Metta Spencer

Because they didn’t. And they should have done. Who should have done that? That’s follow-up research. What should have happened? Well, maybe the whole thing shouldn’t have even taken place in the first place. But, you know, who should have done the kind of work you’re doing, Janice?

Janice Martell

Well, I mean, this was a public health experiment, and it should have been a public health follow up. You know, the government was aware that this was happening. And, you know, they gave their tacit approval. And when the Food and Drug legislation came in, in the late 40s, the research that I looked at is that the McIntyre Research Foundation met with the officials in Ottawa, and they basically said, Well, you know, this is, you know, you’re not giving this to the general public… our inspectors aren’t gonna be very interested in you. So, carry on. So, there was a regulatory oversight that was abysmal. They just dropped the ball and nobody followed up. And it was really when… the media made a big difference in

Metta Spencer

I would, because of what Dr. Meloff said, I’m wondering if there is a possibility that one could get aluminum poisoning and all of the cognitive, and parkinsonism or the other diseases that might result from aluminum exposure, from things like cooking and aluminum pans, or using deodorants — then your, the research would have to be rather complicated in order to separate out the effects of the aluminum that you was inhaled, as opposed to aluminum from other sources. Wouldn’t that complicate the research project? Or have you thought of that yourself in in trying to do this kind of follow up study, Janice?

Janice Martell

Well, I mean, I’m, I’m a lay person, right. So, I’m, I’m a layperson and an advocate, so I’m just kind of trying to gather the information and be a resource around it. But I mean, the …JM aluminum toxicity is unquestionable, it’s neurotoxic. But how the mechanisms, you know how that might affect something like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Denton has his hand up you? Yeah, jump in there. Go ahead, please.

Richard Denton

I just want to make a couple of points. One, I’m just a country doctor. But as a country, doctor, you have a lot of patients, and you see clusters of disease occurring. And you wonder why. And rarely, though, do we actually then try to find out? What is the case? You know, I can think of my colleague, Dr. John O’Connor, who saw a cluster of cancers in the Alberta tar sands, and traced that to the toxins that were coming from that industry and basically had to leave town as a result of that —

Metta Spencer

The story there. What’s that about? That people got mad because they felt that you found out something they didn’t want to know.

Janice Martell

You don’t bite the hand that feeds you in an industry town.

Richard Denton

Yeah. So that that’s it, but I again, want to applaud people like Janice, because it’s often the lay people or miners. There is a miner in Kirkland Lake, who traced his lung cancer to radon gas that is a heavier-than-air gas. It therefore concentrates in the mines. It’s radioactive. It’s not only in the uranium mines, but it’s in all the mines. And as you were alluding to, Metta, it was hard to eliminate things like smoking, because a lot of the miners smoked. And so therefore, they said, Wow, well, your lung cancer is due to smoking, but he did not smoke and was able to finally get WCB, the workman’s compensation board to recognize that that as a health hazard. And we now know that radon gas is the second cause of lung cancer. And it’s… compensable and it’s also found in basements of houses. And so, you now can test that. So again, I simply want to applaud people like Janice for doing this research, you would think that it should be as doctors, but often it is not. It’s the lay people. And I think the second point also is that workers are exposed to bad situations, toxins, and are not informed of it. And so, you have the women who applied the radioactive radon to… watch dials, and developed cancer as a result of that. And as again, Janice points out, the workers are not informed. And particularly we see this often with indigenous people. The uranium mines often occur on indigenous land, they are hired to do the work, but they are not told of the risks. So, my points are that we need to be doing a lot more research. We need to, it’s people like Janice, and miners and people who are the workers who are really the heroes for pointing these problems out. And then it is finally up, back to people like Dr. Meloff and scientists who then can do the research to find these problems. But to me, the real heroes are people like Janice, and I just want to make that point, who —

Metta Spencer

I’m glad you

Richard Denton

took the risk of workers in situations of being exposed to toxins, and not knowing about it.

Janice Martell

Thank you. I have to say Dr. Meloff, many of the people that I talk to remember you, they bring up your name. And I when I say that I’ve met you and that, you know, they’re just very grateful because you believed them, you know, and you said yes, this person has Parkinson’s or parkinsonism or whatever. And, you know, when I was thinking about coming on this, this this show and having a conversation about this, and thinking about how it how it really connected with peace. In order to achieve peace when there’s been wrongdoing, you have to acknowledge the wound, you have to acknowledge the wrongdoing and that this was swept under the carpet and people like yourself. Dr. Meloff, you, you were a frontline physician who gave validity to their lived experiences and they you know, 30 and 40 years later, those families remember you. And I just wanted to say that.

Richard Denton

Thank you. You know, it’s interesting that the source of the aluminum that I provided for further study was given to me in 1989 by a woman called Erma Vosdingh, from Virginiatown. So, most people in Toronto have no idea where Virginiatown is. I actually know. It’s, it’s not far from Kirkland. But I mean, this was because her father had complications from the aluminum oxide. So, it’s an absolute irony that I have like a dozen canisters, because she provided me with about a dozen canisters [of] the McIntyre, powder, some of which were a little different in color. So, there were some that were grayish, and some that were blackish. And that I think, is what Janice is talking about that the fine powder may have different particle size. There’s no doubt in my mind. We have other epidemiological evidence of metals causing problems. Lead is the best known I would say. Lead is terrible. Because lead affects not only the brain, it also affects your blood forming, because you get anemia. Children who eat paint chips that are leaded. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, but it’s a very, this is serious problem is still a problem in North America. And you read about Flint, Michigan, where they have lead in the water, a monumental problem. A pediatrician there was… noticing that children were getting anemia. And it was it was because of lead in the water. I’m so old. I’ve taken care of children with anemia related to lead and brain damage — so that’s how old I am. I actually treated these children who were exposed to lead in Minneapolis. And there’s manganese miners in Chile, they get Parkinson’s disease. And even in the Negev, you may have heard of the Negev, it’s in southern Israel — Bedouins were a migratory… an indigenous population that traveled between Egypt and Jordan and Israel and so forth. They eat, they drink water out of leaded pottery. And there have been cases in, among Bedouins who’ve developed Parkinson’s from the lead. So, this is a really global problem. And the radium, I couldn’t agree more with Richard, I mean… radiation is bad for the brain, it’s bad for your body. It causes malignancies, among many other things. So, this is a monumental, I really think this aluminum powder should be studied in, in animal experiments. To look at the brain after exposure to aluminum oxide,

Metta Spencer

Well, that’s one thing I wanted to ask is we need to move on to talking about the future. I’m wondering, out of all this experience, and experimentation and, and research and tragedy, what has been learned and what needs to be studied further? And what actions are should be taken now? What do we know that we should be doing something about? Probably, maybe Janice and Keith Meloff have different ideas about where to go from here. But I’m always looking for solutions. So what needs to be done, that we should promote as a line of either research or policymaking?

Janice Martell

Certainly what Dr. Malak was talking about with animal experimentation, I think that that is, is something that is being contemplated. The initial review, or the initial assessment of what McIntyre powder is, was necessary to developing something that could be consistent to be able to do those kinds of experiments. So that’s sort of the first step that that Andrew Zarnke, and his colleagues, including Health Canada, had, were part of that review. And, and that would certainly give us some models as to as to what the impacts are, and to be able to study that… there’s a technology… some nano diamond technology where you can attach this tracker to the particles of aluminum, so that when it’s you do the inhalation experiments, you can actually see in the body where it goes. So, can it pass the blood-brain barrier and those kinds of things. So that’s something that is being contemplated. And I think the kind of study that the Occupational Cancer Research Center did for neurological disorders, they could do something similar for the other kinds of health issues that we’re seeing showing up. I mean, respiratory is huge, different cancers, cardiovascular conditions…. One of the things the OCRC study found was they did find higher rates of Alzheimer’s, and higher rates of motor neuron disease in mining in general, not related to McIntyre powder. But compared to the general population and motor neuron disease, that diagnosis, they had some difficulties, because of the number codes that are used in family physician offices versus hospitals, in figuring out, you know, how many of those would be something like ALS, but in general 70% of those diagnostic codes refer to ALS? And I have —

Metta Spencer

Let me unpack that. Are you saying I think I did see reference to this, that ALS itself is one of these motor neuron disease problems, and that it could be could be affected by aluminum or by just any kind of thing in the mining environment? Any mining?

Janice Martell

Yeah. And I, I, I’ve seen some high rates as well around pulp and paper mills. So, I’d be interested in knowing what the common elements were in pulp and paper mill towns in Abitibi. From what I understand, there was an iron ore mine that had I think five, with ALS — in the Kirkland Lake area… So yeah, there’s some, there’s some things, certainly that are beyond my scope. But things that I’d be interested in and on a sort of a public policy issue. I think that there should be a national registry. If you are a worker, I mean, we’ve become a globalized workforce. If you are a worker, you have a right to know everything that is — have a registry, everything that you’ve been exposed to at work, that you and your state, or your legal representatives should be able to have access to that registry, so that they can track and see what are the health outcomes of workers who are exposed to certain things — at some point asbestos was not an issue, right? Because nobody was making the connection. At some point, beryllium wasn’t an issue… Those kinds of toxins and their health effects need to be studied if we’re going to put workers in a situation. And sometimes you don’t know at the time that it could be toxic. And lots of times you did. And I think that we need to have that and push for that. And part of my going into this was… not just to show and find out the answer that I wanted to find out for my dad… was his Parkinson’s related, which I have that answer now… if you can show with this group of workers… this was not an inherent working condition, this was introduced by a powerful mining industry and a government that kowtowed to them. And if you can show what a human rights abuse it was, and how we need to push beyond the way that we deal with workers now? You know, workplaces close down by the time these occupational diseases develop, unions disband. You know, when, you know, when the mining industry in Elliott Lake decommissioned and the mines closed, those locals of the… unions dissolved, because there was no more workplace. We need someone (and it needs to be a national effort) to track what these workers are exposed to. Right now, we’re retroactively doing that at the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers. But it’s… very difficult to do and you have a lot of deceased workers who can’t give you what they were exposed to in their working conditions. So, we kind of look at it as a cluster and try… people who are alive can tell the tales for the people who passed. And the things that I would recommend.

Metta Spencer

Thank you, you obviously have something on your mind.

Richard Denton

Just a couple other points, Metta. I think as Janice has pointed out, to see a toxin develop in people, it’s often 20+ years, to show the cancers and that sort of thing. So that makes doing the research difficult. Number two, I think we need to use what we call the precautionary principle, which is: if you don’t know what it’s going to do, don’t do it. And so, you know, we have seen the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, CAPE has launched a ban on the cosmetic use of herbicides and pesticides for lawns, and we know that those are toxins. So that that is something that can be done. And it was interesting that it started in a little community of Hudson, Quebec, just a small community. And now with the help of CAPE it spread across Canada, and the provinces have now restricted that use. So eventually things do change and… come to light. You know, we thought that plastics were inert, that that was not a problem. Now we know that it’s the microplastics that cause problems, it’s now endemic in our lakes in our streams and in the oceans and is affecting all life there. Not only the large plastic that gets into straws, into turtles and things like that, and in the bellies of whales, but is also the microplastics that is now a problem. And as you also said earlier, with cooking… look at Teflon. We think that’s a marvelous agent. It keeps spills… off your clothing. If you don’t have to use a lot of oil in your cooking, it just slips off the pan. But it too is a toxin and a carcinogen. So all of these things are problems. And then the other point I want to make is that it’s not only the miners, but it’s their families. And the mines fill up the lakes with these toxins. And they become the tailings, become the slimes. And they… often have heavy metals, which then can become airborne, and again, get into the food that we eat. Again, Dr. Meloff and I are old enough to remember when it was recommended that we should all be eating liver. Because it was high in iron and —

Metta Spencer

I still eat liver, or I still leave eat liver, what’s the matter with liver I’ve missed? Well,

Richard Denton

It’s been taken off the Canada Food Guide. Back in the day when you and I grew up, we were recommended to eat liver. But now we know that the liver concentrates toxins. And because we feed animals, all these various toxins, you should not be eating too much liver. And you know, you can now get young calves’ liver or baby beef, but you would not be wanting to eat cow’s liver. And again, we don’t recommend eating wild game liver for that very reason. Because again, they are high in toxins. So yes, you should be eating game. Because it’s low in fat. And that tastes good. But you need to be avoiding the organs that concentrate the toxins like livers and kidneys.

Metta Spencer

Well, we started out with a few things to worry about. And now we end the program with a whole lot more things to worry about. This is not cheerful news. I’m sorry. I’d like to end with an upbeat message, but I’m not quite sure what it is. Dr. Meloff can you think of anything cheerful to end with?

Richard Denton

Well, I I agree with Janice, that what would be cheerful for me is to do exactly what she recommends is and that is to have a registry. I mean, the other interesting catchphrase would be class action lawsuit. Because if you actually think about the violation of proper experimental procedures, I mean, all of this work was done in violation of the Helsinki Accords… people who were exposed without informed consent to toxins. And this is I mean, they were there were trials over this, you know, in Nuremberg, I mean, this evolved into the Helsinki Accords, and international standards for doing clinical research. And I can tell you, there are numerous examples in history of violations of these human rights, testing hepatitis vaccines on mentally retarded children, for example, by very good people, I’m not talking the — these were not evil people who did this work. But they were actually in violation of standard experimental practices. And the same applies to the miners. This, this went into the 70s. I mean, this went on into the 70s, long past. These articles that were enunciated in the Helsinki Accords have proper safeguards for “experiments on human beings”. So I think that that would be actually a very interesting exercise. I have no doubt there are a lot of lawyers who would take this on. I don’t think it’s — I think it would be a win. I just think if it goes to the Supreme Court, I honestly think it would win compensation.

Metta Spencer

I’m trying to think organizationally, of how movements work. And I’m running this thing called Project Save the World. And one of our one of what we’ve chosen as a mandate, if you will, is to work on pandemics, and another is to work on radioactive contamination. And both of them are medical issues. But would this larger project that you’re saying — a registry of exposure to potential toxins? If we took that as kind of a plank, that in a way would almost cover both? pandemics to some extent, and certainly the radioactive contamination exposure, wouldn’t it? So that that kind of recommendation or proposal or campaign would be right up our alley, wouldn’t it? Richard, what do you think? You know, our project? And would that be useful for people who are working on uranium mining and exposure to uranium? Or nuclear waste, which is some of the stuff you’ve been engaged in?

Richard Denton

Most definitely, most definitely Metta.

Janice Martell

The cheeriest thing I can think to end this: that there’s hope that what happened to these miners… and to the factory workers in the States, this is used in Mexico, the people that I haven’t been able to even reach yet — that their life experience is going to promote the kinds of changes globally. You know, because there are disadvantaged workers… when a mine cable doesn’t meet Canadian standards anymore, we send it to a third world country and it meets their standards. Well, there should there shouldn’t be a privileged country. Workplace standards in a poor country, workplace standards of … migrant workers or whatever. It’s a human rights issue. People have a right to be safe at work and not be exposed —

Metta Spencer

I’m speaking as a campaigner. How would you if you were going to take this issue up and make this the crux of a campaign? Where would you locate it? Would you try to get it put through the WHO? You’re saying, it’s not just a local thing because poor countries have —

Janice Martell

And so I thought about United Nations, it is on my radar, more than a class action suit, to do a human rights application for what happened to the miners and it’ll that hopefully will be a platform to or a pathway to, to getting this because that would be my ultimate goal, No amount of money is going to,

Metta Spencer

I mean, you need an organizational affiliation and institution to carry them the ball, you know, especially if you want it to be big. So, you need to figure out who is your partner. And I don’t know. Dr. Meloff, or Richard, both of you?

Richard Denton

Well, a precedent is tobacco. And… the provinces and the governments are now going after the tobacco industry for not doing proper testing, not recognizing it, even when the evidence did come out. We’re still advertising a dangerous product, and not making it aware. And so I think, again, it’s government’s that need to be doing this and governments need to be doing the regulation. And when we take away that regulation, then problems happen. We see this every day. We see this in the nursing homes right now with COVID. The regulations have been decreased. The people that were to do the inspections haven’t been doing it simply because that they were cut back, the numbers were cut back. And as a result, we now have a problem with COVID. And so, but I think Keith’s point of legal action is you need to put financial con-, earmark things or tag things with finances, with money. And it’s only when you start to get legal action that things actually start to change.

Janice Martell

I have looked into it and the current premier in Ontario, brought in legislation to change the act around how to sue people. And if you sue, you have to actually — basically negligence is off the table — you have to prove that the person intended to do harm when… so it’s, it’s dead in the water for that reason. And to me whether it did harm or not, it’s the… negligent aspect… the ‘we don’t know what this is going to do’. We think this, we didn’t have a control group… there was some evidence of, you know, manipulation of the — just how the initial experiments were done on humans, you know, that, even by the standards of that day… did not measure up whatsoever, and this was just pushed through. So, I, to me, it’s the issue: that they were exposed is more of a human rights violation than whether or not it did harm. I would certainly want to know whether it did harm. But every person who, who was exposed to this (against any Nuremberg Code) deserves compensation for that and recognition for that, period. And when they have that, that’s how you get a path to healing. How do you how do you heal when it’s just, you know, some of the quotes from my miners, it is mind blowing, you know — “I had a baby, I had a baby. I was 18 years old. I was a father, what am I going to do? I didn’t want to inhale this. What am I going to do? I had no choice.”

Metta Spencer

Thank you so much. It’s really wonderful that you’ve done this. And heroic, really, because you did it on your own. You just took you took the initiative. Dr. Meloff, I’m going to give you the last word, it has to be a quick word, because we’re over time.

Keith Meloff

I would like to follow this up sometime. I’m on the side here. For me, it’s personal as well, because I’ve been involved with this at many levels. And these are terrible diseases. I mean, if it’s, it’s actually one of the more discouraging parts of being a neurologist is dealing with these diseases. They’re all lethal. The ones we’ve all talked about Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, all of these diseases are lethal. And they aren’t curable. They’re treatable, but they’re not curable. And they shortened lives. So I’m on side here.

Metta Spencer

Thank you. I really appreciate this extremely interesting and important conversation. So some follow up, I don’t know but Bless you all for the work that you’re doing.

Richard Denton / Keith Meloff / Janice Martell

Thank you. Nice talking to you. Bye everybody.

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