It was a human experiment on an unprecedented scale. Its target: 10,000 Ontario miners. Its tool: a mysterious black powder they were forced to inhale in a sealed room before plunging underground to work.
From 1943 to roughly 1980, an aluminum-based prophylaxis called McIntyre Powder was sold as an apparent miracle antidote to lung disease. It was designed, historical documents suggest, by industry-sponsored Canadian scientists bent on slashing compensation costs in gold and uranium mines across the north.
The problem: experts say aluminum is now known to be neurotoxic if significant doses get into the blood. And victims’ families say those exposed to Canada’s miracle McIntyre dust might be paying a devastating price.
Janice Martell has pulled together hundreds of pages of research on the experiment after her miner father, Jim Hobbs, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001.
“Small pieces of him get taken away every day. It’s hard to watch,” says Martell, who works as a counselor in Elliot Lake. “I just felt so helpless.”