Silicosis is an occupational hazard of the lung: miners who inhale dust containing silica often end up with damaged, scarred, and inflamed upper lungs. The end result is a shortness of breath, cough, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin). Death is not uncommon.

Silica is a well-known by-product of iron-ore production, and local Iron ore miners have suffered high rates of silicosis because of their exposure to silica while working at the IOC and Wabush mine sites.

According to NDP Leader Earle McCurdy, people in Labrador West have been waiting way too long for an update on how workers and former workers of these mines have been affected by toxic silica dust while working these iron ore mines.

McCurdy says this proven health hazard was especially rough on those who “worked at the mines in the early decades, before workplace safety was improved,” adding that “it can take 20 years or more for silicosis to manifest.”

The NDP has stood consistently with the Steelworkers and their demands for a medical audit. Many cases were detected in examinations decades ago, but McCurdy says government’s delay in releasing results from the most recent study could mean that many are not receiving the treatment and benefits they should be getting.

The previous PC government first issued a call for proposals for the medical audit in 2010 but did not award the contract until 2013.

Last December a departmental briefing note anticipated completion by March of this year but, there has been no word on the status of this vital audit for months.

“Up to 2,000 past and present employees at IOC and Wabush Mines, and their families, are anxiously awaiting Morneau Shepell’s report,” said McCurdy. “This medical audit will allow them to take the next necessary steps. Government must release the medical audit, and ensure that companies properly control silica dust in Labrador West.”