USAF airmen sick from Hexavalent Chromium & Dichloromethane exposure

Dangers in the Air – Part 1: Documents show Keesler workers were exposed to dangerous chemicals

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) – Some maintenance workers at the 403rd Air Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi said they have become seriously ill from exposure to hazardous materials because of poor safety practices. The workers, and documents from Keesler, indicate base management was aware of the problems as far back as 2009, and either ignored them or was hampered by military bureaucracy to solve them quickly.

Larry McDonald, left, Joshua Powell, center, and Sean Delcambre all worked for the 403rd Maintenance Wing at Keesler Air Force Base. They are among at least six workers that have fallen ill because of what they believe is workplace exposure to hexavalent chromium.

WLOX News Now spoke to six of these employees; three didn’t want their names used for fear of retribution from superiors at the 403rd. One of the employees said he was threatened with demotion if his complaints continued. Instead of backing down, he and others filed requests for a Congressional Investigation through Sen. Roger Wicker’s office.

Workers said they turned to the senator and a veterans’ organisation for help after they felt their problems were being ignored.

“It just kind of feels like they’re waiting for us to die to make it go away,” said Joshua Powell, one of the affected workers.

One of the workers, Sean Delcambre, died on Aug. 5 after his cancer spread so fast, doctors could not stop it.

SAFETY HAZARDS

Larry McDonald of Gulfport, like many of the maintenance workers at the 403rd, is both a full-time civilian employee and a member of the unit as a reservist. McDonald, 40, has been stationed at Keesler since 2010, working as a sheet metal mechanic in a cluster of buildings that documents show have been plagued with safety hazards in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), Department of Defense and Air Force rules. Those violations are detailed in a series of base Work Request forms filed since 2009, and reports filed by the base’s Bioenvironmental and Occupational Health departments and the 81st Medical Group.

The documents show workers in these buildings are exposed to hexavalent chromium, lead, strontium chromate, and methylene chloride, all dangerous substances. Some are known carcinogens.

Hexavalent chromium is the highly toxic chemical that was at the center of environmental controversy depicted in the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, featuring Julia Roberts.

HEALTH ISSUES

McDonald said he began to have health issues in 2012. By 2014, those symptoms became much worse, and a doctor told him he had several masses in his sinuses and a deviated septum.

The OSHA fact sheet on hexavalent chromium states that “repeated or prolonged exposure can damage the mucus membranes of the nasal passages and result in ulcers. In severe cases, exposure causes perforation of the septum.”

At least one of McDonald’s coworkers we talked with has similar symptoms.

The exposure to the chemicals happens when workers sand paint off of C-130Js and airplane parts and repaint them. 1,500 people work for the 403rd, including 450 in the Maintenance Group.

OSHA rules define what safety equipment must be worn and what levels of exposure are acceptable.

“TURNED THEIR BACK”

Another worker who has become sick said the unit “turned their back” on members of the 403rd.

Joshua Powell was transferred to the 403rd in June 2015 from Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. Powell worked in the ISO hangar, away from the buildings where McDonald worked. However, Powell said he had to go to that cluster of buildings on a regular basis and ate in the break room there.

Sean Delcambre’s brother, Michael, helps him drink water at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute in Mobile on June 18, 2019. Delcambre died on Aug. 5. (Source: Amy Delcambre)

Sean Delcambre, who also worked in building 4301, was diagnosed with stage 3-B Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2018. In June, he was diagnosed with 30-CD positive anaplastic lymphoma. Delcambre died in August.

Delcambre, who joined the Air Force on 2005, said in April that he never had any reason to think that proper safety procedures were not being followed. Years later, he started to hear about exposure issues at other bases. Then his son was stillborn in December 2014.

Delcambre had passed all the physicals to become a pilot or navigator, but cancer put that dream on hold.

“It certainly was a shock to have a disease (ulcerative colitis in 2016) come up like that at 31 years old, and a year later get sick again and to find out I had cancer at 33. Before that I was otherwise healthy,” he said.

ABOVE THE LIMITS

Records of a September 2015 inspection show airborne levels of hexavalent chromium in Building 4301 were almost three times above Occupational Environmental Exposure Limits.

Those levels could have existed for at least four years, McDonald said, because sanding and priming were being done in open areas of the complex or just inside open bay doors with little or no containment of materials. That practice was cited in the October 2015 reports that described toxic dust escaping into other parts of building 4301, including the break room where workers gathered for lunch.

Keesler documents show that in September 2009 until at least June 2012, the walk-in blast booth, Building 4302, could not be used because of electrical problems, moving the work into open areas of the complex.

The 403rd Maintenance Wing complex at Keesler Air Force Base. Workers there say they were exposed to hexavalent chromium when sanding and painting was done outside the paint booth, located inside building 4301.
The 403rd Maintenance Wing complex at Keesler Air Force Base. Workers there say they were exposed to hexavalent chromium when sanding and painting was done outside the paint booth, located inside building 4301. (Source: Google Earth)

Powell and McDonald said supervisors didn’t follow the proper OSHA and Air Force procedures after that 2015 inspection, which include giving exposed workers medical exams to test for contamination. OSHA regulation states “The employer shall make medical surveillance available at no cost to the employee, and at a reasonable time and place, for all employees… whenever an employee shows signs or symptoms of the adverse health effects associated with (hexavalent) chromium VI exposure.”

OSHA rules also say that workers exposed to hexavalent chromium should be given an medical evaluation within 30 days of initial assignment. That test would create a baseline for future health tests. Delcambre, Powell and McDonald said that was never done.

A response from Keesler in July stated that they began blood tests on workers exposed to the chemical in December 2017, but exposure levels at the maintenance facility have never required additional testing.

Read full article and watch videos on WLOX website

https://www.wlox.com/2019/08/19/dangers-air-part-documents-show-keesler-workers-were-exposed-dangerous-chemicals/

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Delay – Deny – Die

  • Same chemicals in use at Irish Air Corps, Baldonnel. 
  • Same illnesses suffered by serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel.
  • Irish Air Corps “didn’t do” Health & Safety prior to 2017.
  • Strontium Chromate used by Air Corps technicians with their bare hands.
  • Ulcerative colitis common amongst serving & former Air Corps personnel.
  • Autoimmune & immune diseases common amongst serving & former Air Corps personnel.
  • The Irish Air Corps has a shameful record over many decades of treating injured personnel as malingerers and actively bullying them for being unwell.

‘Cancer cluster’ fury: The ‘red zone’ residents ‘being left to rot and die’

ALONG one stretch of road, 50 people have been diagnosed with cancer. The people of this Australian town had enough of being told there’s nothing wrong.

THE people of Williamtown know that 50 residents living on one stretch of rural road have been diagnosed with cancer.

They want the Government to admit it. And to fix the problem now.

The fury of those living in the “red zone” of toxic contamination near the RAAF base in the NSW township of Williamtown, near Newcastle, is palpable.

After years of drinking the water, washing in it, cooking in it, they were finally told in 2015 it was contaminated. They are out of patience, and want answers.

And their anger has only been further inflamed by a NSW Health report saying there’s no evidence of a cancer cluster caused by contamination which the Department of Defence allegedly hid from them for three years.

The report dismissing their concerns has left them devastated.

Read more on news.com.au

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This article may be of relevance to Air Corps fire fighting personnel who used AFFF in the past. The Air Corps as usual will not admit whether they used poly-fluoroalkyl substances. In well regulated workplace environments exposure should be minimal but in the Air Corps there was no regulation nor health & safety training for the handling of fire fighting foam.

However as with the Air Corps toxic chemical scandal the Australian DoD is trying to downplay the effects of dangerous chemicals just like Dr. Leo Varadkar did in the Dáil on the 7th of February.

Read information sheet on firefighting foam from the Australian Department of Defence

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Navy (New Zealand) veteran’s landmark compensation deal has others with Parkinson’s fearing trichloroethylene

Hundreds of New Zealanders may have been affected by a toxic chemical in a wide range of workplaces, a Weekend Herald investigation has found.

The discovery follows a landmark compensation pay-out to a New Zealand navy veteran who proved links between exposure to the solvent during his military service and his Parkinson’s disease.

The Herald reported last month that Veterans Affairs has provided the ex-serviceman with an entitlement to disability compensation for Parkinson’s, a condition attributed to his exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) while degreasing and cleaning electronics on a Royal New Zealand Navy ship during the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency.

The Weekend Herald has since tracked down other men who fear their handling of TCE in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s could have caused their debilitating diseases and who now want to pursue their own compensation cases.

A former New Zealand Post Office telephone exchange technician, a naval dockyards apprentice and an aircraft engineer have all spoken about using TCE in their workplaces for years, without any health and safety precautions.

None of them used gloves or breathing apparatus while being exposed to the potent halocarbon that was popular across an array of sectors and workplaces in New Zealand, including garages, railway and aircraft workshops, and other depots.

“Trichlo was strong enough to bowl you over,” said 65-year-old Steve Walker, an ex-New Zealand Post Office employee at the Balclutha exchange, who now struggles with Parkinson’s. “It seeped into your skin, into your clothes. It took over you completely.”

Dave Schafer, a 58-year-old who used TCE weekly while cleaning instruments on Navy frigates during a five-year apprenticeship at the Devonport naval base, said: “Holy cow, that stuff was powerful. But as apprentices you kept your mouth shut and did your job, you didn’t rock the boat.”

Parkinson’s New Zealand, the Returned and Services’ Association (RSA), and those spoken to by the Weekend Herald, all believe there will be many more New Zealanders – hundreds if not thousands – who have been exposed to TCE over the years.

“Researchers have suggested there could be a significant lag time between exposure to TCE and the onset of Parkinson’s,” said Parkinson’s New Zealand chief executive Deirdre O’Sullivan.

“As such, we have reason to believe there could be many more serving and/or ex-serving NZDF people in a similar situation to this veteran.”

The potentially precedent-setting Navy veteran’s decision was made on appeal to the independent Veterans’ Entitlements Appeal Board, which considered appeals against decisions made under the War Pensions Act 1954.

It was made possible by ground-breaking international research including a major 2011 study on TCE exposure that concluded it was likely to result in a sixfold increase in the chances of developing Parkinson’s.

Read more on the New Zealand Herald’s website

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Interesting that the New Zealand Herald article discusses exposure in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. No mention of the 1990s onwards obviously because the industries there using the chemical copped on in the 1990’s.

Unfortunately the Irish Air Corps was still exposing personnel to Trike, (without protection) in ERF / Avionics in the 1990s and well into the first decade of this century and likely elsewhere in Baldonnel & Gormanston

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Dutch Department of Defence knew about toxic paint risks 25 years ago

Letters obtained from health and safety inspectors and minutes of meetings reveal that the Defence Ministry was aware of the health risks associated with carcinogenic paint since 1987, but did not take steps to protect staff until eleven years later, according to broadcaster NOS.

Nearly two hundred defence employees complained about chromium-6, a toxic substance in the paint and varnish used on tanks and fighter aircraft in a number of workshops. Earlier this month, a historical investigation was launched by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment to investigate all complaints.

Article originally published 2nd October 2014

Read more on the NL Times website

Dutch Ministry of Defence pays out €2.1 million so far in Ex Gratia Chromium-6 Exposure Compensation Scheme.

So far the Ministry of Defense paid out more than 2.1 million euros to 309 employees and former employees who became ill after working with paint containing carcinogenic substance Chromium-6, a Defense spokesperson confirmed to NU.nl.

The Defense workers in question took advantage of a goodwill scheme the Ministry instituted two years ago for Chromium-6 victims. Employees and former employees who worked with the toxic paint for more than a year and are sick can claim between 3 thousand and 15 thousand from the scheme, without the Ministry of Defense acknowledging guilt for their illness. The compensation scheme will remain in place until public health institute RIVM finished its investigation into the risks and health effects of using Chromium-6.

According to the spokesperson, Defense employees from across the Netherlands applied to the scheme. The Ministry received a total of 719 applications, 255 of which were immediately approved. Another 54 were approved or partly approved after the employee objected.

The compensation scheme shall remain in force until the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) research into the risks and health effects of Chromium-6 has been completed

Read more on the NL Times website

http://nltimes.nl/2017/02/27/defense-pays-eu21-million-toxic-paint-victims

Parliament of Australia – Committee Activities (Inquiries & Reports)

On Thursday 25 June 2009, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report on the inquiry into RAAF F-111 Deseal/Reseal workers and their families entitled Sealing a just outcome: Report from the Inquiry into RAAF F-111 Deseal/Reseal workers and their families.