Algoma Steel Cluster Project

Algoma Steel Cluster Project


Algoma Steel, (formally Essar Steel) was founded in 1902, and is the largest employer in Sault Ste Marie and the second largest Steel producer in Canada.  Algoma Steel currently employees more than 2,700 unionized workers of United Steel Workers Local 2251 (USW Local 2251) and United Steelworkers Local 2724 (USW Local 2724). Their products are used in automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing, tube and steel distribution industries.  

In May of 2008, USW Local 2251 held a 2-day Occupational Disease intake clinic in collaboration with the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW). Workers and their families had approached the union after being diagnosed with various Occupational illnesses. At the time of the intake clinic, Sault Ste Marie had four times the provincial cancer rate, according to the Algoma and District Health Unit and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) statistics. USW Local 2251 members accounted for 3% of the provincial Occupational Disease fatalities registered with WSIB.  

540 USW Local 2251 members and their families attended the intake clinic on May 7th and 8th. After the clinic, they held five additional mini-intake sessions surveying an additional 193 workers. As a result, 1,165 claims were filed by USW Local 2251, 261 claims were allowed and 596 were denied. These denied claims were continued to be worked on by USW Local 2251, and files continued to be referred to OHCOW. 


In 2022, USW Local 2251 and USW Local 2724 asked OHCOW to reopen the cluster investigation project. OHCOW then established an interdisciplinary team to review the previously denied and abandoned claims. Letters were sent to all past clients and workers who attended the intake clinic in 2008 re-offering services. The OHCOW team commenced consent calls, requested WSIB claims, reviewed the WSIB claim files and moved the files through interdisciplinary consult meetings. The claims were reviewed to see if literature and/or law and legislation has changed, and if these previously denied claims can now be supported.  

The risk factors for cancer and various illnesses are multifactorial. For the patient to be entitled to benefits, a causal relationship between the occupational exposure and the diagnosis must be demonstrated. Lung Cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the most predominant illness to come out of the Algoma Steel Cluster investigation project. Workplace exposures of asbestos, silica, coke oven emissions, respirable dusts etc. continue to be reviewed by our hygienists.  

At this time our Algoma Cluster investigation team continues to work through files that have been reopened as well as newly referred files, this is an ongoing project.  

What’s coming next? 

  • In 2024-2025, we will continue to contact workers or their next-of-kin through follow-up phone calls and letters to update their information and determine what further support can be provided.  
  • As part of our ongoing work, we will continue to obtain, compile, and review medical records and work histories of individual clients, and we will develop individual reports regarding the contribution of work exposures to health issues.  

We want to hear from you! 

  • Did you or your family member work at Algoma Steel? 
  • Do you have concerns about the impact of your work on your health? 
  • Contact The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) at 1-800-461-7120 for further information or to register with us as part of our Algoma Steel cluster investigation 



Our Free Services:

  • Anonymous inquiry services to answer personal work-related health & safety questions.
  • Research services to investigate and report on emerging illnesses/injuries.
  • Medical diagnostic services for workers who may have work-related health problems.
  • Consultation services for workplace health and safety committees or worker groups.
  • Outreach and education to increase awareness of health and safety issues and to promote prevention strategies.


Jessica Montgomery at 1-613-218-7345

OR: 1-877-817-0336


*Calls and inquiries are completely confidential

For workers with reproductive health concerns:

Concerns have been raised about reproductive health issues among Ventra workers.
Are you experiencing any of the following?

  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Excessively painful periods
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding

If so, please reach out to the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) to participate in our reproductive health survey.

We are investigating potential linkages to workplace duties or hazards.

Pebra Plant

In 1981, a German plastic auto parts firm came to Canada and first located in a 22,000 square foot facility in Kitchener, Ontario. With production expanding, the company set up a second facility in Peterborough in 1986, purchasing a 200,000 sq. ft. metal clad structure, which was expanded in the late 1990s to accommodate its larger thermoplastic injection molding machines and production operations.

In 2004, Sonia Lal, industrial hygienist OHCOW, undertook a detailed retrospective exposure assessment of the production processes at Pebra Inc., (now the Ventra plant), between 1986 and 1996. This involved a systematic effort with the participation of UNIFOR Local 1987 Workers’ Advisory Exposure Committee to collect, document and analyze empirical information about how production was carried out in this complex plastics production operation. This work was undertaken to document the extent and nature of chemical and physical exposures that are possibly linked with the various cancers and other diseases that many employees and their families suffered over the years. Given the complexity of chemical exposures in plastics production processes,  the researchers relied upon qualitative research methods to profile exposures, retrospectively.



A Retrospective Exposure Profile of the Pebra Inc. Plastics Plant in Peterborough, Ontario

June 2020

Prepared by Dale DeMatteo, BA, MHSc and Robert DeMatteo, BA, MA, DOHS, Unifor Local 1987 and Local President, Mark Clapper, Past President, Rose Wickman... and more