90 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 90 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 77 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 53 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • 39% of deaths are from cancer
  • 29% deaths are from cardiac
  • At least 15 deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 52 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 16/12/20 – “Not an Outdoor Gymnasium” adjacent to Spray Paint Exhaust

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 149

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the person or body that chose the installation location of the recently installed outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43855/20]

QUESTION NO: 150

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the way in which the Air Corps formation safety office allowed a leisure facility such as the new outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin, to be installed 15 m to 20 m from the low level exhaust stack of the Air Corps spray paint facility; if the exhaust stack routinely emits chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction; and if he has full confidence in the current Air Corps chemicals health and safety regime. [43856/20]

QUESTION NO: 151

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of the new outdoor gym; the cost of installation; and the potential cost of relocating it to a safer alternative location at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43857/20]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 151, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that three protected disclosures were received in late 2015 and January 2016 in relation to the Air Corps. Legal advice was sought and an independent reviewer was appointed. The Reviewer’s independent report considered the Defence Forces health and safety regime, its current policy and its application. Although the report found that the Defence Forces regime appears to be capable of meeting statutory requirements, it makes a number of observations; including in relation to documentation, health surveillance, and exposure monitoring. It also notes that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations. The report of the independent reviewer was provided to the individuals who made the protected disclosures and it was also published on the Department of Defence website.

In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016 by the HSA, the Air Corps had continued to work with the HSA to improve its health and safety regime. The HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. The HSA has now closed its investigation. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

I am advised by my military authorities that the facility referred to by the Deputy is in fact an outdoor training area as distinct from an outdoor Gym. This equipment was installed at a cost of €21,918 including the necessary site works. I am further advised that the Defence Forces do not plan to relocate the equipment elsewhere as they are not aware of any safety concerns pertaining to the current location.

*****

The Air Corps base at Baldonnel, Co. Dublin comprises several hundred hectares of space. That the Air Corps could install an outdoor training facility within metres of the exhaust stack of the Spray Paint Facility either shows a staggering level of confidence in the filtration capabilities of the extraction system or utter incompetence.

The outdoor training facility or “not an outdoor gym” is built on the site of the old Avionics/Engine Shop complex which was demolished when sick personnel who worked in the location started to seek their medical files. Prior to demolition the building was condemned and marked out of bounds but the minister as denied it was ever condemned in previous parliamentary questions. 

Dangerous chemicals routinely emitted by the Air Corps spray paint facility include the following that are highly dangerous to human health and especially dangerous to the health of pregnant females and their unborn child as they are capable of causing genetic mutational harm leading to congenital birth defects.

        • acetone
        • cyclohexane
        • ethylbenzene
        • heptane
        • hexamethylene diisocyanate
        • hexane
        • methyl acetate
        • methyl ethyl ketone
        • phenol
        • stoddard solvent
        • toluene
        • xylene
        • zinc chromate

For decades these very same chemicals exited this low level exhaust stack, blew across the road and into the windows of Avionics Squadron & Engine Repair Flight likely harming health and likely contributing to the untimely deaths of multiple personnel in both locations. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Illnesses linked to dichloromethane aka DCM aka methylene chloride

CAS number: 75-09-2

Diseases linked to this toxicant grouped by strength of evidence.

Photo of DCM-based paint stripper as used by the Irish Air Corps in 2015. An EU ban on the use of DCM-based paint strippers came into force three years earlier on the 6th of June 2012.

Strong Evidence

  • Arrhythmias*
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)*

Good Evidence

  • Brain cancer – adult*
  • Fetotoxicity (miscarriage / spontaneous abortion, stillbirth)*
  • Reduced fertility – male (infertility and subfertility)*

Limited Evidence

  • Breast cancer*
  • Hepatocellular cancer (liver cancer)
  • Lung cancer*
  • Pancreatic cancer*
  • Peripheral neuropathy*
  • Prostate cancer*

Illnesses marked thus * have been suffered by Irish Air Corps personnel or their offspring.

Illnesses linked to #Trichloroethylene aka TCE aka TRIKE

Illnesses linked to trichloroethylene aka TCE aka TRIKE

CAS number: 79-01-6

Diseases linked to this toxicant grouped by strength of evidence.

Strong Evidence

  • Acute hepatocellular injury (hepatitis)*

Good Evidence

  • Acute tubular necrosis
  • Arrhythmias
  • Autoimmune antibodies (positive ANA, anti-DNA, RF, etc.)*
  • Cardiac congenital malformations*
  • Childhood leukemias
  • Cirrhosis*
  • Cognitive impairment (includes impaired learning, impaired memory, and decreased attention span) / mental retardation / developmental delay*
  • Decreased coordination / dysequilibrium
  • Fetotoxicity (miscarriage / spontaneous abortion, stillbirth)*
  • Hearing loss*
  • Hepatocellular cancer (liver cancer)*
  • Lymphoma (non-Hodgkin’s)*
  • Psychiatric disturbances (disorientation, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, paranoias, anxiety/depression, emotional lability, mood changes, euphoria)*
  • Renal (kidney) cancer*
  • Scleroderma
  • Trigeminal neuropathy

Limited Evidence

  • ADD/ADHD, hyperactivity*
  • Adult-onset leukemias*
  • Brain cancer – adult*
  • Breast cancer*
  • Cervical cancer
  • Choanal atresia
  • Genito-urinary malformations (includes male and female)
  • Hodgkin’s disease (lymphoma)*
  • Immune suppression
  • Low birth weight / small for gestational age / intra-uterine growth retardation
  • Lung cancer*
  • Multiple myeloma*
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Neural tube defects / CNS malformations
  • Oral clefts (cleft lip and palate)
  • Pancreatic cancer*
  • Pancreatitis
  • Peripheral neuropathy*
  • Prostate cancer*
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus*
  • Testicular cancer*

Illnesses marked thus * have been suffered by Irish Air Corps personnel or their offspring.

89 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 89 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 76 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 52 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • 39% of deaths are from  cancer
  • 29% deaths are from cardiac
  • At least 15 deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 52 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

First year anniversary of formally asking Cathal Berry TD for assistance seeking medical intervention for injured Irish Air Corps chemical exposure survivors? Still NO response!

10th June 2021

Still awaiting a response from Cathal Berry TD exactly a year to the day from writing to him.

Apparently he is not so #CredibleCompetentCaring after all.

10th January 2021

Dear Deputy Berry,

Exactly six months ago on the 10th of June 2020, I  wrote a registered letter to you asking for your assistance obtaining medical interventions for chronically ill Irish Air Corps personnel in an effort to reduce unnecessary suffering & untimely deaths.

I am disappointed that after six months I have had absolutely no response or follow up to this letter, not even an basic acknowledgement of receipt.

As a former Defence Forces officer and as a medical doctor I hoped that you were best placed to both understand & champion in the Oireachtas the best interests of those suffering a multitude of health effects from decades of unprotected toxic chemical exposure in what HSA inspectors told me was “the worst case of chemical misuse in the history of the state”.

As I have not heard from you I can only assume that I was wrong and that you either simply do not believe there are any health problems suffered by serving & former Air Corps personnel due workplace chemical exposure, or worse still, you acknowledge personnel have been injured but have no interest in helping them.

I would be grateful if you could please reply publicly to this open letter and while doing so could please answer the following.

  1. Do you believe Irish Air Corps survivors when they tell you that the Health & Safety Authority found serious non compliance with the Safety, Health & Welfare At Work Act 2005 in relation to basic chemical health & safety at Casement Aerodrome and that the same HSA threatened prosecution if their “advice” was not complied with?
  2. Do you accept that the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts 1989 & 2005 were enacted by the state to protect workers from injuries and if an organisation failed to implement these same Acts for decades after they were enacted then the likelihood of injury to personnel is increased?
  3. If you do accept that the Irish Air Corps was not in compliance with the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts 1989 & 2005 and if you do accept that health and safety legislation is enacted to protect workers can you please explain why you have done nothing publically to raise awareness of the Irish Air Corps chemical exposure tragedy since you were elected to Dáil Eireann almost 1 year ago and why you have not mentioned it even once in your numerous chamber utterances or press releases.

I look forward to your response, if any.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Tobin
Spokesperson
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors

Please find linked below a copy of my original letter to you and also a copy of the Health & Safety letter to the Air Corps dated October 2016 outlining urgent steps to be taken  threatening legal action if they are ignored. The HSA letter was obtained under FOI.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 01/06/21 – Irish Air Corps leads Defence Forces in WRC complaints & settlements

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 450 – 18th May 2021

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of times action has been taken against the Defence Forces and brought to the Workplace Relations Commission; the number of cases his Department has won, lost or settled out of court; the number that are ongoing by service that is Army, Naval Service and Air Corps in tabular form; the breakdown of the awards paid and settlements; and the legal costs of defending these actions. [26471/21]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1st October 2015. Since that date twenty-eight (28) complaints have been made against the Defence Forces, with the Minister for Defence listed as the Respondent in all such cases.

Complaints made may originate from either Defence Forces personnel or civilians (“Others” in the table below). The Chief State Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the State’s legal representation for complaints lodged with the WRC where I am the named Respondent in my capacity as Minister for Defence, and any costs arising from such representation.

A breakdown of these complaints is as follows:

Defence Forces WRC Complaints (Overview)

Total Complaints Lodged Complaints Won - not upheldComplaints Lost-upheldComplaints Settled or WithdrawnAwards /
Settlements*
Ongoing Complaints
285113€162,116.119

* Settlements containing confidentiality clauses are not included.

The origin of each of the nine ongoing complaints is as follows:

Defence Forces WRC Complaints (Ongoing)

ArmyAir CorpsNaval ServiceOther
3312

*****

Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)

QUESTION NO: 370 – 1st June 2021

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 450 of 18 May 2021, if he will provide a further breakdown in origin for the outstanding Defence Forces Workplace Relations Commission complaints; if he will provide a complete breakdown of the 28 WRC complaints by origin per service, that is, Army, Naval Service and Air Corps in tabular form; and if he will provide a breakdown and further details regarding the other category. [29475/21]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

A complete breakdown of the 28 WRC complaints received by my Department, by origin per service in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) is as follows:

Defence forces WRC complaints (Full)

Type of ComplaintArmyNaval ServiceAir CorpsOther
Won - not upheld*0132
Lost - upheld0010
Settled or Withdrawn**1
1100
Ongoing3
132
Totals43174

* The correct number of Complaints Won (not upheld) should have read 6 in PQ 26471

** The correct figure for Complaints Settled or Withdrawn should have read 12 in PQ 26471

The category titled “Other” in the table above refers to complaints made to the Workplace Relations Commission by non-PDF members, including members of the Reserve Defence Force and the general public regarding issues concerning the Defence Forces.

*****

DELAY – DENY – DIE

88 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 88 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 75 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 51 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.
 

3 most significant causes of death

  • 39% of deaths are from  cancer
  • 29% deaths are from cardiac
  • At least 15 deaths are from suicide
*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 52 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

A review of health effects associated with exposure to jet engine emissions in and around airports

Background

Airport personnel are at risk of occupational exposure to jet engine emissions, which similarly to diesel exhaust emissions include volatile organic compounds and particulate matter consisting of an inorganic carbon core with associated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals. Diesel exhaust is classified as carcinogenic and the particulate fraction has in itself been linked to several adverse health effects including cancer.

Photo of Alouette III No 196 showing soiling of the tail boom with soot from exhaust gasses.
Method

In this review, we summarize the available scientific literature covering human health effects of exposure to airport emissions, both in occupational settings and for residents living close to airports. We also report the findings from the limited scientific mechanistic studies of jet engine emissions in animal and cell models.

Beechcraft 200 Super King Air No 240 showing soiling of the engine panels with soot from exhaust gasses.
Results

Jet engine emissions contain large amounts of nano-sized particles, which are particularly prone to reach the lower airways upon inhalation. Size of particles and emission levels depend on type of aircraft, engine conditions, and fuel type, as well as on operation modes. Exposure to jet engine emissions is reported to be associated with biomarkers of exposure as well as biomarkers of effect among airport personnel, especially in ground-support functions. Proximity to running jet engines or to the airport as such for residential areas is associated with increased exposure and with increased risk of disease, increased hospital admissions and self-reported lung symptoms.

Conclusion

We conclude that though the literature is scarce and with low consistency in methods and measured biomarkers, there is evidence that jet engine emissions have physicochemical properties similar to diesel exhaust particles, and that exposure to jet engine emissions is associated with similar adverse health effects as exposure to diesel exhaust particles and other traffic emissions.

Read full article journal at BMC

*****

The layout of the Irish Air Corps base at Casement Aerodrome ensures that aircraft exhaust gasses are blown over populated sections of the airbase when winds are from the south, south east or south west. This includes hangars, offices, workshops and living in accommodation such as the apprentice hostel and married quarters. Calm weather also creates conditions where exhaust gasses linger in higher concentrations.

This results in all Irish Air Corps personnel (commissioned, enlisted, civilian & living-in family) being exposed to emissions from idling aircraft engines, emissions that are known to cause harm.

In the mid 1990s a study of air pollution adjacent to the ramp area at Baldonnel was commissioned. This report relating to this study has gone missing. 

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests increased prevalence of occupational asthma & adult onset asthma amongst serving & former personnel who served in Baldonnel or Gormanston aerodromes. 
  • Older gas turbine engines produce dirtier exhaust gasses.
  • Idling gas turbine engines produce dirtier exhaust gasses.
Below are some of the gas turbine powered Air Corps aircraft that were powered by elderly engine designs.
AircraftRetiredEngine FamilyFirst Run
Alouette III2007Turbomeca Artouste1947
Fouga Magister1999Turbomeca Marboré1951
Gazelle2005Turbomeca Astazou1957
King Air 2002009Pratt & Whitney Canada PT61960
Dauphin II2005Turbomeca Arriel1974

DELAY – DENY – DIE

‘IT’S A SCANDAL’ RAF airman who flew with Prince William proves rare cancer was caused by the Sea King chopper

AN airman who flew choppers with Prince William has proved his rare form of bone marrow cancer was caused by the RAF Sea King.

Flight Sergeant Zach Stubbings was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after years of inhaling toxic exhaust fumes spewed from the powerful twin engines of the now retired aircraft.

Flight Sergeant Zach Stubbings, who flew choppers with Prince William, has proved his rare form of bone marrow cancer was caused by the RAF Sea King

And last month, the winch operator won a settlement from the Ministry of Defence after a six-year legal battle. Zach has been paid an undisclosed sum and the MoD had to admit in writing his 15 years of service in the RAF caused his life-threatening condition.

It will likely spark concern for the royals. Wills flew the Sea King in 150 search-and-rescue operations over a three-year period.  It is not known if he was affected by the fumes. Prince Andrew also flew the aircraft in the Falklands in 1982.

And The Sun can lift the lid on an apparent government cover-up of the issue.  Bombshell documents uncovered by Zach during his legal fight prove experts warned the MoD of the dangers of the Sea King exhaust as far back as 1999 but nothing was done.

Zach, 42, of Cardiff, said: “The Government chose to ignore it. It’s a scandal.”

Read more on the The sun