Calls for probe into Defence Forces inspection records

The Government is coming under increased pressure to launch an investigation into missing Defence Forces inspection reports which were allegedly destroyed.

he calls for an independent probe follow reports in the Irish Examiner which revealed that junior defence minister Paul Kehoe has ruled out any investigation into the disappearance of health and safety reports from the air corps, despite being told by a whistle-blower the documents were deliberately shredded.

The State is being sued by six former air corps members who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by their exposure to toxic chemicals while working as technicians in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell.

The missing safety reports date back to the 1990s when all six allegedly injured air corps members worked in Baldonnel.

Despite both the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence saying the reports cannot be found, opposition politicians claim to have had sight of the documents and say that they raise concerns as to the management of the working environment in Casement Aerodrome.

Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that, in April, Mr Kehoe received a protected disclosure alleging that a named official ordered the shredding of the documents.

Despite this, Mr Kehoe last week told Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh that he could only offer “speculative” reasons as to why the reports are missing and ruled out an inquiry into their disappearance.

Responding to this newspaper’s report yesterday, Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said allegations the reports were deliberately destroyed in order to cover up knowledge of health and safety concerns were “extremely serious”.

“The suggestion from the minister that the reports in question, which are from different inspection periods and from different reporting years, have vanished and that this is somehow due to change over to an electronic system or documents were misplaced over time is difficult to believe,” she said.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

State accused of shredding documents now central to legal case

A Defence Forces whistle-blower has alleged that a named official ordered the shredding of documents that are now central to a legal case against the State.

Despite the claim, junior defence minister Paul Kehoe says he has no plans to investigate how documents went missing, despite only being able to offer “speculative” reasons for their disappearance.

Six former members of the Air Corps have taken High Court action against the State, claiming it failed in its duty of care to protect them from the harmful effect of the toxic chemicals they used on a daily basis while working in maintenance at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Co Dublin.

All six now suffer chronic illnesses, and a toxico-pathologist has given his medical opinion that these conditions were developed as a result of their exposure to these chemicals.

The Irish Examiner understands that further cases will be brought against the State, which has denied liability in all six instances to date.

Central to all the claims is the question of whether the State took all reasonable steps possible to protect the workers. However, health and safety inspection reports published in the 1990s — at a time when all six of the claimants worked in Casement Aerodrome — have gone missing.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 20/06/17 – Defence Forces – No investigation into missing reports

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will instruct an independent third party to carry out an investigation into the reason Forbairt inspection reports dating from the 1990s cannot be found in view of his department’s failure to locate the Forbairt files and in further view of the possible significance of these missing documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26895/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

As I indicated to the Deputy in my letter of 17 May 2017, I was advised by the Military Authorities that there was a report on measuring CO fumes from aircraft complied by Forbairt in 1995 and a further report on monitoring air contaminants in workshops in 1997, which was also complied by Forbairt.

Unfortunately, following an extensive search and the Military Authorities having consulted with Enterprise Ireland (which superseded Forbairt) and having also conducted a search within the Department it has not been possible to locate these reports.

The military authorities have indicated that the Defence Forces have neither a hard copy record nor an electronic copy of the Forbairt Reports. The Military Authorities have indicated that there are a range of potential causes for the loss of the reports such as the changeover of electronic recording systems in 2004 or that the reports were misplaced over time. However this is purely speculative.

It is not proposed to have an independent third party carry out an investigation into the reasons the Forbairt reports cannot be found.

Biological monitoring for Isocyanates

Organic diisocyanates are a significant occupational health problem.

They are respiratory and skin sensitizers and a major cause of occupational asthma in the UK. The most common are hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), isopherone diisocyanate (IPDI) and methylene-diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) in decreasing order of volatility. HDI and IPDI are used for varnishes, coatings and two-pack spray paints used in motor vehicle repair. TDI and MDI are used for flexible and rigid polyurethane foams, floor coverings and adhesives. This wide range of uses means that there are thousands of workers potentially exposed to isocyanates.

In the UK, a management control system is required for workers exposed to isocyanates and for this to be successful workers should not become sensitized. Apart from occupational asthma, airway irritation and asthma-like symptoms such as cough, wheezing and dyspnoea are commonly reported. Other respiratory effects are hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinitis and accelerated rate of decline in lung function. Diisocyanates can also cause both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis as well as skin and conjunctival irritation.

Health surveillance that detects occupational asthma is recording failure – there needs to be intervention earlier in the exposure-to-disease paradigm. Although there is evidence that detecting respiratory symptoms early and removing workers from exposure improves prognosis, the goal should be to control exposure to prevent any symptoms.

Please read more on the Society of Occupational Medicine website from September 2007.


This is a long article but a very informative read and is especially relevant for those on post 1995 contracts who were dismissed from the Irish Army Air Corps due to occupational asthma.

No record of Air Corps health probe

The Defence Forces still has the invoice it received for a health inspection carried out on the Air Corps in 1997 — but not the report outlining the findings of the probe.

The State is being sued by at least six former members of the Air Corps, who claim their exposure to harmful chemicals caused their chronic illnesses.

Those taking the cases claim there was negligence on behalf of the State, which failed to provide them with the adequate protections or training.

However, the State has denied liability, and in one case stated that “no admission is made that the defendants exposed the plaintiff to dangerous chemicals or solvents whether on an ongoing basis or at all”.

The cases have been brought by men who worked in the Air Corps workshops from the late 80s up to the early 2000s.

It has been claimed health and safety inspections in the 1990s raised concerns about the working environment at Casement Aerodrome — however, the reports sent to the Defence Forces arising from these inspections now “cannot be located”.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Skin Cancer in Irish Air Corps personnel – Basal Cell Carcinoma

Photo of BCC on the leg of a former Air Corps employee who worked daily with Ardrox 666. This person also has cancerous growths on his arm & scalp.

Basal Cell Carcinoma’s are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). BCCs often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars and are usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure.

Both long-term sun exposure over your lifetime and occasional extended, intense exposure (typically leading to sunburn) combine to cause damage that can lead to BCC. Almost all BCCs occur on parts of the body excessively exposed to the sun — especially the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back.

On rare occasions, however, tumors develop on unexposed areas. In a few cases, contact with arsenic, exposure to radiation, open sores that resist healing, chronic inflammatory skin conditions, and complications of burns, scars, infections, vaccinations, or even tattoos are contributing factors.

It is not possible to pinpoint a precise, single cause for a specific tumor, especially one found on a sun-protected area of the body or in an extremely young individual.

Skin cancer (non-melanoma)
Causes grouped by strength of evidence
Strong  Good  Limited 
arsenic aromatic amines acrylamide
benzo(a)pyrene arsenical pesticides vinyl chloride
coal tars benz(a)anthracene
ionizing radiation creosotes
mineral oils dibenz(a,h)anthracene
shale oils dimethyl benzanthracene
UV radiation ethylene oxide
methylcholanthrene
oryzalin
PAHs
pesticides

We are aware of a number of current & former Air Corps technicians who have developed Basal Cell Carcinoma. It is interesting to note that there is good evidence to link creosotes with Basal Cell Carcinoma. Creosotes are a component chemical of Ardrox 666.

However, Basal Cell Carcinoma is a very common cancer and so the occurrence may not be unusual.

Key point as with almost all of the illnesses suffered by Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors is of course vigilance. Don’t delay going to your doctor.

Making babies – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

Making babies the hard way.

There is something shameful and deviant about sitting in a small public toilet in a busy public hospital masturbating. Other people want to use the toilet, you are trying to be as quick and as quiet as possible but you have a job to do and you cant leave the cubicle until it is done.

Welcome to the glamorous world of infertility. I was married a number of years at this stage and my wife was starting to worry that pregnancy wasn’t happening for us. She had established contact with a maternity hospital over her worries. She was given a clean bill of health and now it was my turn and this started with a semen analysis to establish if I had a sufficient sperm count and also to establish the health & motility of these.

I presented at small hatch in in one of Dublin’s maternity hospitals where I was given a container, verified my name, address and DOB and was sent on my way to find a free toilet cubical where I could “produce” a sample.

After the job was done I returned the sample to the hatch where I was told that results would be available within the hour, not to me but to my wife’s gynaecologist. So the next day I rang his office for the results and was told that he couldn’t fit me in for an appointment for at least 3 weeks. This pissed me off greatly as I knew a semen analysis is an “eyeball” count and I wasn’t too keen to hang around for weeks awaiting the result.

I sought the consultant’s number and left a message for him to call me back to put me out of my misery. He called me back and confirmed what I had started to suspect…I had a serious fertility problem. A healthy sperm count was between 50 and 100 million sperm per m/l and mine was only 1 million. Considering that the average intercourse attempts before pregnancy in a healthy couple was 1 in 4 attempts my odds of creating a natural pregnancy were one in 400. Essentially it could take 33 years of monthly attempts for success not 4 months.

And there was worse news to come when we finally did sit and meet with the gynaecologist. Of those 1 million sperm that I did have over 90% were immotile or defective in some way so now my odds had lengthened to a 1 in 4000 chance of pregnancy. Now being fairly certain that we didn’t have over 300 years of monthly sex to create a family it became readily apparent we needed the intervention of fertility specialists. The gynaecologist told us our only option was ICSI a particularly expensive specialist form of IVF. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.

In that meeting with the gynaecologist I felt numb and totally drop kicked. I had reached the stage in my life where I wanted to become a father. The previous summer I had been on a rocky beach in the West of Ireland with my wife, her sister and two nieces. I remember walking along the beach with my 1 & 3 year old nieces, lifting over rocks to see the creepy crawly creatures under them, the subsequent delight of the kids and had thought “yep I could be a dad” .

As you can imagine my wife was utterly distraught at the news that we could not have children naturally. She is very good with children and had a much stronger instinct and desires for parenthood than me. The gynaecologist said that considering our ages (early thirties) and the severity of my infertility that we had no time to waste and he recommended Clane IVF clinic.

Starting IVF involves a lot of rigmarole. Further medicals, testing & analysis, and also regular tests for STDs such as hepatitis & HIV in order to protect their staff &  maintain a quality trail.

And of course during this build up our family and circle of friends are popping out sprogs like there is no tomorrow. When you find out you can’t have children naturally you start to notice every single pregnant woman you pass. Everyone is pregnant except you guys.

I do recall a dinner we went to in a friend’s house where there were 3 couples present. The host couple already had a child and over the course of the dinner the other couple declared “they had an announcement” they were expecting their first child. Obviously they were bursting with pride & happiness and we were very happy for them but immediately I could sense that my wife was distressed but “holding it together”.

After the meal was over and we said our goodbyes my wife broke down as soon as she got inside our car. It is unfortunately a reality for childless couples that other people’s good news can cause them pain. I suppose it invokes a panic that perhaps the IVF will never work and leads to a fear that we would never have “an announcement” of our own.

Eventually we received our prescription for the IVF medication which mainly injectable hormones for my wife. Although I was the one with the fertility problem all the treatment of egg production, egg harvesting and embryo implantation was naturally enough focused on my wife. She carried the can 100% for my infertility.

So off we skipped with our prescription like kids to a sweet shop, we could hardly contain our excitement. My wife required daily injections and I was the injector. Initially we were very giddy and one of our biggest problems was that one or other of us would get into a fit of giggles. It is not very easy to give an injection when one or other of you is shaking like a leaf from laughter. I became very skilled at giving the injections and on more than one occasion managed to give an injection that my wife didn’t even notice.

Part of the treatment involved regular inter-vaginal ultrasound monitoring to observe and monitor the growth of eggs. Normally a woman produces one fertile egg follicle per month alternating ovaries but during IVF the fertility drugs promote Controlled Ovarian Hyper-stimulation whereby a larger number of ripened egg follicles are produced. This is in order to harvest as many eggs as possible so that a number of embryos can be created. This increases your odds of success, IVF is very much numbers game.

I accompanied my wife to the first scan and everything was hunky dory so when some work commitments happened to coincide with the next scheduled scan my wife was happy to travel to the clinic on her own as we just saw the scan as routine and had no reason to fear anything was going amiss. So she headed down to Clane on her own and about an hour later I got a call from my wife who was sobbing uncontrollably at the other end. The nurse performing the scan had ultrasound had inserted the probe and then had gone white, she called the doctor urgently and he went white. It turned out my wife had started Hyper Ovulation Stimulation Syndrome and the cycle had to be stopped immediately.

So there and then our current chances of becoming parents evaporated. Many people will talk about the emotional roller-coaster that is IVF but we never paid much heed. We made a serious mistake and that was we never contemplated failure. We only contemplated success, failure wasn’t even on our mind, so when that failure did come we were totally unprepared. It was like the chair had been kicked out from underneath us.

As mentioned IVF essentially involves Controlled Ovarian Hyper-stimulation but Hyper Ovulation Stimulation Syndrome is a very dangerous condition where the woman reacts “too well” to the fertility drugs and produces too many ovarian follicles and is at risk of essentially an internal overdose of hormones leading to respiratory, cardiac or renal problems and can be fatal.

So getting over this HOSS involved stopping treatment and then careful monitoring to make sure the threat dissipated, we then needed my wife’s regular ovulation cycle to get back on track and as you can imagine this took a number of months. We found Clane IVF clinic to be very professional, very supportive and always felt they had our best interests to the fore and would not rush treatment cycles.

For many patients of IVF, the first cycle really is like the zeroing shots at range practice. It allows the IVF professionals get an idea to the responsiveness to IVF drugs of one woman’s body compared to another’s.

For our second cycle the IVF injection dose was adjusted and we made some significant adjustments to our expectations. This time we only contemplated failure and decided that success would be a bonus. This approach we believed would protect us somewhat from disappointment if the cycle failed again.

This cycle however went well and a date was set for February 2008 for the harvesting procedure. Again this involves an inter-vaginal ultrasound probe just this time with a retractable lance that is able to burst each follicle and extract the egg. At the time the IVF clinic was in a portacabins at Clane General Hospital and there was a small 3 bed-roomed ward next to the theatre which was connected via a hatch to the Embryology laboratory.

So my wife got gowned up and was sedated for the procedure as I waited on my own in the small ward. Eventually my wife was brought back into the ward in a wheelchair, bleeding and with tears running down her face and streaming down her neck. For me this was an extremely low point of my life. I felt extremely guilty because this was my fault, I was infertile not my wife. If I was functional she would not have needed to go through this.

So I’m sitting beside my wife who is upset and confused because of the sedation I’m trying to comfort her and then one of the IVF nurses called in to us to tell us the egg harvesting had been a success and that now it was “my turn”. I was handed a small sample container and had to go into a room I had nicknamed “the milking parlour” to have the most important wank of my life. If you pardon my porn reference this was the “money shot”, I had to produce and my aim had to be impeccable.

Once I provided the sample it was handed over immediately to the embryologist and he went and worked his scientific magic of ICSI. IVF is now a very well understood procedure but many people are a bit horrified when they realise the scientific & medical technology was adapted from the livestock industry.

So I believe that 18 eggs were harvested and treated with ICSI. This resulted in 15 successfully fertilised eggs. We opted for a service that matured the zygotes a bit longer in the lab. While this was more expensive it also improved the odds of success when implanted.

I think it was 2 weeks later that we went back for the eggs to be implanted. To improve the chances of success Clane implanted 2 zygotes in what is a relatively straightforward procedure and then it was a waiting game for 2 weeks until the first blood test.

Those 2 weeks are a time of huge anticipation. Do you cheat and try a home pregnancy test or do you wait until the official, higher accuracy, blood pregnancy test. So we waited until the official test and you have to then wait for a phone call from the lab to give you the good or bad news. Like I said we had dampened down expectations but it was till nerve racking.

When the news came it was positive, we were going to be parents. Naturally we were overjoyed and we kicked into “nesting mode” and what turned out to be an uneventful and normal pregnancy.

Sean, our first child,  was born in October 2009 and when I first set eyes on him I became very emotional. Tears came out of nowhere as I sobbed uncontrollably looking at this helpless little bundle swaddled in a hospital blanket, blinking and yawning and wondering where he was.

We still had some frozen embryos and so a year or so later we decided to try for another cycle. This time we chose to implant only a single embryo as a year or so into being parents neither of us fancied the thoughts of being parents of twins. But again, we made the mistake of not contemplating failure, again we thought everything would work like it did the previous time. So cycle 3 was a failure but as well as that all along the different phases of harvesting, fertilisation, implantation, freezing and thawing there was an attrition rate and so after cycle 3 we only had 2 fertilised zygotes left.

Again, after a failed cycle my wife needed a number of months for her menstrual cycle to get back to normal before we could go for the 4th cycle attempt. We took the decision to implant our last 2 remaining embryos taking the chance on twins rather than the expense of a further cycle. Like in the case of our first pregnancy only one embryo took and in May 2012 our second son Ciaran was born.

Both boys are now in school with one in Junior Infants and the other in First Class of our local Educate Together. Both are healthy fun loving kind kids with a love of the outdoors and both have a curious mind and 99% of the time they are a pure joy to raise. The thought always fascinates me as to how would their personalities be different if they had been implanted in the opposite order. Technically they are twins being conceived on the same day but just born over 2 years apart.

IVF was an expensive undertaking and we spent many tens of thousands of euro. I am conscious of many of my Irish Army Air Corps colleagues with fertility difficulties remain childless because either the IVF technology was not mature enough at the time to deal with their level of infertility or because they simply could not afford the cost of the procedure.

I have no doubt that my fertility trouble stemmed from my working environment in the Irish Army Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. The working conditions were horrendous,  we had no chemical training whatsoever, we were issued with no PPE whatsoever and the buildings that housed the chemicals I worked with were asbestos clad brick sheds built by the British in 1915-1918 and were unfit for purpose as they had utterly inadequate ventilation.

Chemicals we worked with in Baldonnel were exceptionally dangerous and were listed as Carcinogens, Mutagens and Teratogens and a number of chemicals in daily use were reproductive toxins and warned of harm to fertility as well as the capacity to cause heritable genetic harm.

My wife and I are definitely one of the luckier couples from Baldonnel, many couples have not been able to have children and will move into an old age that will be lonelier as a result. It is one thing if you don’t want a family but to want a family and be denied it because your employer didn’t give a damn about Health & Safety is galling.

Worse still I believe are the serving and former personnel who have managed to have children but whose children have suffered serious physical & mental disabilities due to their parents unprotected chemical exposure during their service in the Irish Army Air Corps. Many of these chemicals have the capacity not only to harm sperm, eggs and the developing child but also to harm the male &  female reproductive organs increasing the chance of disabled children long after leaving the service.

Infertility is common and on the increase but the levels of infertility or fertility difficulties experienced by male personnel in the most chemically contaminated workshops in Baldonnel appears anecdotally to be as high as 50%.

This is another health effect of the chemical Health & Safety failings that needs full investigation by competent medical & scientific bodies.

Parkinson’s Disease Risk Greater in Those Exposed to Trichloroethylene

Symptoms of Disease May Appear 10 to 40 Years Following Exposure

A novel study in twins found that exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE)—a hazardous organic contaminant found in soil, groundwater, and air—is significantly associated with increased risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Possibility of developing this neurodegenerative disease is also linked to perchloroethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CCI4) exposure according to the study appearing today in Annals of Neurology, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates that as many as 500,000 Americans have PD and more than 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. While there is much debate regarding cause of PD, studies suggest that genetic and environmental factors likely trigger the disease which is characterized by symptoms such as limb tremors, slowed movement, muscle stiffness, and speech impairment. Several studies have reported that exposure to solvents may increase risk of PD, but research assessing specific agents is limited.

The current epidemiological study, led by Drs. Samuel Goldman and Caroline Tanner with The Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, investigated exposure to TCE, PERC and CCI4 and risk of developing PD. The team interviewed 99 twin pairs from the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council World War II Veteran Twins Cohort in which one twin had PD and one didn’t, inquiring about lifetime occupations and hobbies. Lifetime exposures to six specific solvents previously linked to PD in medical literature—n-hexane, xylene, toluene, CCl4, TCE and PERC—were inferred for each job or hobby.

The findings are the first to report a significant association between TCE exposure and PD—a more than 6-fold increased risk. Researchers also found that exposure to PERC and CCI4 tended toward significant risk of developing the disease. “Our study confirms that common environmental contaminants may increase the risk of developing PD, which has considerable public health implications,” commented Dr. Goldman.

Read more on Wiley.com