The Government is facing pressure to commission a wide-ranging health study on former Air Corps staff to establish if their working conditions contributed to significant ill-health in some members.
The call for a health study, similar to one established in Australia to examine the correlation between illnesses in its air force and their members’ use of chemicals, comes following months of revelations in the Irish Examiner.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he will raise the request in the Dáil, and said the Government’s response to the scandal has been “deficient” to date.
Mr Martin’s stance follows a recent meeting he and his party defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers held with a number of former Air Corps staff.
The group, all in their 40s and 50s, listed the litany of illnesses they have suffered since leaving the Air Corps, including rectal cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, heart attacks, autoimmune diseases, depression and anxieties, solvent-induced encephalopathy, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — even among non-smokers.
“All suffer significant health issues,” Mr Martin said, describing the encounter as a “sad and often difficult” meeting.
“One has undergone five surgeries and is in constant pain. They all have personal issues. One has had two heart attacks and in one instance was kept alive by his wife and a first responder,” said Mr Martin.
“All were exposed to chemicals, and in at least one case, the person was ‘tubbed’ — sat in a bath and doused in chemicals which was a ritual at the time,” he said.
“I was taken aback at some of what they had to say, particularly about not having protective clothing.
“One told me that subsequent to his time at the Air Corps, he went into private industry and couldn’t get over the contrast in terms of the attitude and directions for handling chemical spills and use of protective suits. The contrast was striking.”
Read more on the Irish Examiner website
Despite the Ardrox 666 (Dichloromethane, Cresylic Acid & Sodium Chromate) dripping down the wall from the extractor fan and Ardrox 1074 (containing Hydrofluoric Acid) dissolving the small barrel in the photo above, the State Claims Agency & Air Corps still maintain we “were not exposed to toxic chemicals”.
The Air Corps have also appealed a high court judgement, directing them to tell survivors the list of chemicals to which they were exposed, to the Court of Appeal.