GE Peterborough workers exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals
May 19, 2017 | By MRO Magazine
Peterborough, Ont. – A new report shows that workers at the GE plant in Peterborough, Ont. were exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals, including at least 40 known or suspected human carcinogens.
“These GE workers have suffered horrific and often terminal diseases at a disproportionate rate, yet approximately half of the compensation claims filed have been rejected, abandoned or withdrawn due to what was deemed to be insufficient proof.” said Joel Carr, Unifor national representative. “This report provides much-needed evidence to allow the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to reopen and support these claims.”
Unifor will present the new report, which conclusively documents the extent of worker exposure to toxic chemicals, to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Chemicals used and exposed to include asbestos, arsenic, vinyl chloride, beryllium, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, PCB, uranium, lead, and many others. These chemicals were used in large quantities and handled directly without proper protection. Examples revealed in the study include workers immersed up to their elbows bare handed in chemicals, the use of chemical soaked rags to clean equipment, and the sawing of asbestos boards without proper respiratory equipment to name a few.
“I’ve seen the results, I’ve been to the funerals,” said former GE worker Sue James. James says she has lost many of her former colleagues as well as her father Gord, a GE veteran employee who died with a tumour in his lung and four on his spine.
There are currently 31 Unifor members with WSIB claims for GE job-related illness, including several forms of cancer.
The report, authored by two experienced occupational health researchers, was commissioned by the Advisory Committee on Retrospective Exposures, consisting of retired GE workers and supported by Unifor.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers in every sector of the economy. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.