Canadian Manufacturing

Workers at GE Peterborough exposed to toxic chemicals for decades, Unifor says

The 173 page report from the labour union says that dangerous chemicals were handled without protection in GE's Peterborough factories, and exposure to those chemicals has led to terminal diseases in some cases



PETERBOROUGH, Ont.—A new report from Unifor says 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at a disproportionate rate, yet approximately half of the compensation claims filed have been rejected, abandoned or withdrawn due to what was deemed to be insufficient proof,” said Joel Carr, Unifor national representative.

Carr continued, “This report provides much needed evidence to allow the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to reopen and support these claims.”

Unifor will present the 173 page report to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

The union says that GE employees were exposed to asbestos, arsenic, vinyl chloride, beryllium, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, PCB, uranium, and lead, and alleges that these chemicals were used in large quantities and handled directly without proper protection.

The report sites instances of workers handling chemicals bare handed, the use of chemical soaked rags to clean equipment, and the sawing of asbestos boards without proper respiratory equipment.

Former GE worker Sue James says she has lost many of her former colleagues as well as her father Gord, a GE employee who died with a tumour in his lung and four on his spine.

“I’ve seen the results, I’ve been to the funerals.” said James.

Unifor says there are currently 31 Unifor members with WSIB claims for GE job-related illness, including several forms of cancer.

According to The Toronto Star, GE has said it followed the health and safety practices appropriate at the time, adding that it improved those procedures as new scientific research and industrial health and safety best practices emerged.

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