DENY – An Taoiseach Dr. Leo Varadkar denies chemical link at Baldonnel

If only those foreign governments or Samsung had the medical advice on hand here in Ireland. Perhaps they would have held tough and refused compensation to their sick workers if they’d heard this suggestion by an Irish doctor:

“As a medical doctor, it is not possible for me to say if exposure to chemicals caused all or any of these illnesses because they are commonplace in the community at large.”

“If it was one specific illness resulting from a known chemical that caused such an illness, that would be one thing. These are not the allegations that are being made, however,”Dr Leo Varadkar told the Dáil in February 2018.

However, the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry would not support Dr Varadkar’s view that we should be looking out for “one specific illness resulting from a known chemical” in the Air Corps case. It says there is sufficient evidence to be sure that exposure to TCE is causation for kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cardiac defects.

They say the evidence is sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is likely between exposure to TCE and leukaemia, liver cancer, multiple myeloma, end-stage renal disease, Parkinson’s disease, and scleroderma.

The agency says there are 21 different health effects — including various cancers, miscarriages, and birth defects — that have been found in at least one study that evaluated exposure to TCE and/or PCE.

Aside from that list of life-changing illnesses arising from exposure to TCE, it is worth bearing in mind that this was not the only chemical used in Baldonnel.

Varadkar and Kehoe’s stock answer to date is that there should be no examination of any connection between conditions in Baldonnel until the seven ongoing court cases are resolved. The first of these was lodged five years ago, and the State Claims Agency has fought these cases tooth and nail.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

DELAY – Irish Air Corps Chemical Deaths Mickey Mouse Inquiry

It is now over three years since whistle-blowers lifted the lid on issues in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Five years have passed since the first personal injury claim against the State was lodged in the High Court.

The Irish Examiner reports that first highlighted these issues were published over two years ago.

With some exceptions, very little progress has been made in addressing the concerning matters at the heart of this scandal in the intervening period.

Writing in this newspaper last year, columnist Michael Clifford noted how there are two categories of inquiry frequently undertaken by a State agency or government organ.

“The standard inquiry is designed to find out whether something went wrong, how it happened, and who may be responsible,” he wrote.

“The other category frequently used, we shall refer to as the Mickey Mouse inquiry. This is designed to respond to a controversy.

“Turning over stones and digging for information is not the primary function of a Mickey Mouse inquiry.

“Instead, the main focus is to present the inquiry as an exhibit to show that something, anything, is being done,” he said.

Mr Clifford was referring to an inquiry into allegations by a Prison Service whistle-blower and recalled the initial attempts to “investigate” issues raised by Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

But he could easily have been referring to the lip service the Government has paid to serious allegations raised by Air Corps whistle-blowers, some ex-Defence Forces, and one still serving.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Delay, deny, and die: The official response to Air Corps chemical exposure fears

The Dáil is set to debate the establishment of a special committee to conduct hearings into the possible health effects of toxic chemical exposure among Air Corps personnel, after two years of revelations in the Irish Examiner, with TDs expected to back the investigation before the summer. Joe Leogue looks at what has brought us to this point.

It also calls for measures, including medical cards, “to address the health needs of personnel that have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, and extend these measures to any civilians affected and to students who may be affected while on work experience”.

The move comes years after whistleblower allegations, court cases, and revelations in this newspaper that have prompted many questions.

There are some who believe those in positions of power are happy to leave those questions unanswered.

Those who believe that Air Corps technicians are seriously ill because they suffered undue exposure to harmful chemicals while working in Casement Aerodrome say the Government response to their concerns can be summed up by “three Ds”.

Delay – Deny- Die

Delay any meaningful investigation into their claims; deny there is an issue; and finally, wait for these sick troublemakers to die and stop rocking the boat.

Truth be told, nothing the Government — or successive ministers for defence — have done in recent years would dispel anyone of that notion.

Number of cases being defended by Department of Defence against former staff rises to eight

The Department of Defence has confirmed that the number of cases it is defending against former Defence Forces staff over chemical exposure in the Air Corps has risen to eight.

Detail of the new case emerged as Sinn Fein prepares a motion calling for Oireachtas inquiry into the health and safety management at Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

In January 2017, this newspaper revealed how the Department of Defence had received a number of protected disclosures from whistleblowers alleging serious shortcomings in how Air Corps maintenance staff were protected from exposure to cancer-causing substances.

We also reported how, at the time, six former members who suffer a range of chronic illnesses, took High Court action against the State over what they said was a failure to train them properly on the dangers of the chemicals they used, or to provide them with adequate personal protective equipment.

These six former members had received the opinion of a toxicopathologist who linked their illnesses to their working conditions.

The Department has now confirmed that the number of cases has risen to eight, and this newspaper understands that a number of others are considering similar action.

Call for inquiry into allegations members of Defence Forces suffered due to toxic chemical exposure

The Dáil is to consider establishing a special Oireachtas inquiry into claims that Defence Forces personnel suffered serious health consequences over decades as a result of toxic chemical exposure – allegations first revealed by the Irish Examiner.

They believe these exposures could have caused the deaths and serious illnesses of former staff.

These whistle-blowers also submitted a complaint to the Health and Safety Authority, who inspected conditions at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel and threatened legal action against the Defence Forces unless it made improvements in how Air Corps staff are protected from the effects of the toxic chemicals.

Meanwhile, the State is defending seven personal injury claims from former Air Corps members who have been told by a toxico-pathologist that their chronic illnesses were caused by their exposure to chemicals used in the line of duty.

The Government first received protected disclosures from whistleblowers in December 2015, and an independent report on the claims found appropriate records to demonstrate the Air Corps compliance with health and safety standards “are not readily available.”

However, despite receiving that report in the summer of 2017, no subsequent action has been taken by the Government, nearly two years later.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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There have been 22 untimely deaths of Irish Air Corps serving & former personnel since the first health and safety related protected disclosure was made to Simon Coveney in December 2015.

This Fine Gael government appear quite happy to sit back and let our colleagues die. At least 3 of the 22 deaths were suicides and therefore preventable.

Delay – Deny – Die

Whistleblower feels ‘left out on a limb’ by minister

An Air Corps whistleblower, leaving the Defence Forces, feels “left out on a limb” by the minister to whom he appealed for help, the Dáil has heard.

Last month, the Irish Examiner revealed that the serving member wrote to the Defence Forces chief of staff to inform him of a decision to retire early over what was claimed was the authority’s failure to protect him from persecution as a result of concerns he had raised.

Last November, the whistleblower wrote to Paul Kehoe, the junior defence minister, complaining of the “unwarranted treatment” he had received after submitting a protected disclosure on health and safety issues.

The whistleblower is one of a number who has raised concerns over Air Corps staff exposure to cancer-causing chemicals while servicing and maintaining aircraft. The State is fighting seven personal injury cases being taken by former Air Corps members suffering chronic illnesses they say were caused by exposure suffered during their service.

The whistleblower’s early retirement was raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley, who asked Mr Kehoe what action, if any, he had taken on receiving correspondence from the member last November.

Mr Buckley said: “No action was taken on foot of a letter dated 28 November 2018 appealing for the Minister of State’s intervention and asking what protection he was giving to this serving member at the time. What actions were taken on foot of the original protected disclosure?

Mr Kehoe said he would leave the matter in the hands of the Ombudsman. “I will not stand over anybody being wronged. I encourage the person to whom the deputy is referring to go to the Defence Forces Ombudsman. He or she may have done so but I assure the deputy the case will be dealt with in an independent and fair way. The ombudsman provides that facility in an independent way.”

Unfortunately, this person has left the service because of the way he has been treated. He believes he has been let down. He has served his country with distinction. He thought he was doing the right thing by disclosing what was going on but he is now in a position where he cannot keep his job which will affect him in many other ways.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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The last thing Minister Kehoe wants is more whistle-blowers feeling it is safe to make further protected disclosures about wrongdoing at the Irish Air Corps. By “passing the buck” Minister Kehoe’s non intervention is allowing the ongoing victimisation of of Air Corps personnel.

Said ombudsman will probably be invited to visit Baldonnel and then wined & dined in the Officers Mess by the perpertrators of the greatest workplace health & safety tragedy in modern Irish history.

That is of course unless he hasn’t been invited already.

Delay – Deny – Die

Case over chemical exposure at Casement dismissed

A case taken against the State by a former maintenance worker who claims his illnesses were caused by his exposure to chemicals while in the Air Corps has been dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.

The case saw legal representatives acting on behalf of former Air Corps member Ian Coughlan at odds with the State as to when Mr Coughlan was first aware that his medical complaints may have been connected to his exposure to chemicals in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Mr Coughlan has suffered or continues to experience skin rashes, sleep disturbance, fatigue, mood changes, occasional bloody diarrhoea, skin and eye discolouration, and short-term memory loss. He began proceedings against the State in 2013.

His personal injury summons against the State alleged 24 instances of negligence and breach of duty. He alleged the Air Corps failed to provide him with a safe system of work, appropriate training for the safe handling of the chemicals he was required to work with, and that proper safety measures to protect him from the ill-effects of the chemicals were not implemented.

Mr Coughlan brought his legal challenge within months of receiving the opinion of toxicopathologist professor Vyvyan Howard, who said he believed his ongoing medical complaints were as a direct result of his exposure to chemicals while working in Casement Aerodrome.

However, the State argued Mr Coughlan’s claim was statute barred as he was aware of a potential connection more than two years before he commenced legal action. It said discussions in medical examinations around Mr Coughlan’s handling of chemicals while he was serving in the Air Corps meant he possessed the requisite knowledge to bring a case between 2007 and 2009 — at least four years before he began legal action.

However, in a sworn affidavit, Mr Coughlan said at no time during that period was he advised his symptoms and illnesses were related to his working environment.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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Despite Mr. Coughlan having no evidence to bring a case against the state until 2013, Mr Justice Meenan said Mr Coughlan should have brought the case against the State by 2011 at the latest.

Delay – Deny – Die

Air Corps whistleblower’s decision to retire “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process”

The Irish Examiner revealed today that the whistle-blower – one of three who has previously raised concerns about staff’s exposure to chemicals – has announced his decision to retire early.

His decision comes two months after telling Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe that he has not received assurances from Defence Forces hierarchy that he is not being targeted for making protected disclosures.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said a list of deaths compiled by one Air Corps whistle-blower requires explanation.

The list, the existence of which was previously reported in this newspaper, contains the details of more than 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that the whistle-blower believes may be connected to chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

She described the revelation that a whistle-blower is to retire early as ‘shocking’.

“I’m very concerned about the treatment of whistle-blowers and people making disclosures, as some arms of the public service are not dealing with them as comprehensively or fairly as they should,” Ms Murphy said.

Fianna Fáil Defence spokesman, Jack Chambers, said the whistle-blower’s decision “demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process” and will act as a deterrent to anyone else who is thinking about coming forward.

“This is symptomatic of the general malaise that has been allowed to fester within the Defence Forces under the current Minister. Whistle-blowers who feel that their only next option is to retire demonstrates a dysfunction in the complaints process and it certainly doesn’t encourage others who have issues of concern from engaging with the process.”

Air corps whistleblower was ‘isolated, vilified’

An air corps whistle-blower has written to the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to inform him of his decision to retire early over what he has claimed is the authority’s failure to protect him.

The decision comes two months after the whistle-blower wrote to junior defence minister Paul Kehoe complaining of the “unwarranted treatment” he has received since he submitted a protected disclosure on health-and-safety issues.

In this communication with Mr Kehoe, the whistle blower included signed statements from two air corps personnel, the contents of which, he said, were evidence of an attempt by those in authority to “isolate and vilify” him and turn his colleagues against him.

He is one of three whistle blowers to make complaints about the chemical exposure suffered by air corps maintenance staff, the details of which were first revealed by the Irish Examiner two years ago.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

The commanding officer further pointed to previous complaints made against him by the whistle-blower, which he said constitutes “a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour” against him.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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If said commanding officer felt he was targeted by a consistent pattern of vindictive and bullying behaviour by a subordinate the Defence Forces have measures in place to deal with such behaviour through military law.

If the commanding officer didn’t act to use existing disciplinary mechanisms against his subordinate why did he introduce such complaints when he himself was being investigated? 

Delay – Deny – Die

Solvent exposure and Parkinson’s disease

Shaun Wood worked was a painter and finisher  at Royal Air Force (RAF) bases across the world. During the early 1990s he was involved in the very intensive work preparing Tornado aircraft for the first Gulf War, in particular gluing anti-missile patches to the aircraft. This work was often done in confined spaces over long working hours.  He generally wore a respirator but these were not really adequate for the circumstances.

German Tornado Undergoing Maintenance

Shaun has been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), which is a debilitating Parkinsonian syndrome that affects the nervous system. He is just 53 years of age.

Throughout his work Shaun was exposed to various solvents, but primarily trichloroethylene and dichloromethane. There is not a great deal of information about exposure to these solvents in aircraft maintenance. I have seen results from a survey carried out at an RAF base in Scotland where dichloromethane levels were measured during paint striping in the cockpit area of a Nimrod aircraft. There was only 1.5 m2 of paint removed, but the peak air concentrations were about 700 mg/m3. Results from three monitoring surveys where the British Health and Safety Executive sampled for dichloromethane during paint stripping on aircraft are shown in the following figure. The mean levels measured in each of these surveys were: 330, 790 and 1,960 mg/m3, and the highest individual level measured was 3,590 mg/m3.

Read full article on OH-world.org A blog about exposure science and occupational hygiene

http://johncherrie.blogspot.ie/2011/12/solvent-exposure-and-parkinsons-disease.html

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Below is a photo of one of the locations in the Irish Air Corps that used Dichloromethane, namely the NDT Shop of Engine Repair Flight. Yes that is a stream of the chemicals dripping out of the extractor fan and running down the wall. And yes that is dichloromethane, cresylic acid and the hexavalent sodium chromate all over the floor. The small barrel that is being dissolved by its contents contains Hydrofluoric Acid.

Some extracts from the Ambient Air Monitoring For Health and Safety at Work report dated 2nd August 1995

  1. Dichloromethane levels were measured in the engine shop in Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the 13th of July 1995 at the behest of Captain John Maloney who is still serving in the Irish Air Corps
  2. The level of dichloromethane found in ambient air in the engine
    cleaning area exceeded health and safety limits. 
  3. Levels of Dichloromethane were measured at 175.9ppm (622.5 mg/m3)  while the TWA health & safety limit for this chemical in 1995 was 50ppm.
  4. Significant levels of all parameters monitored were found in nearly all ambient air samples taken in the engine cleaning area.
  5. The ventilation in all areas monitored was deemed to be insufficient. It is thus recommended that mechanical heating and ventilation systems be adapted designed and installed in all areas monitored.

To summarise, the Irish Army Air Corps knew that Dichloromethane levels in the NDT shop in 1995 exceeded health & safety limits by 3.5 times yet officer management

  1. LEFT personnel of all ranks and none to rot in this exceptionally toxic working environment for a further 12 years.
  2. IGNORED the recommendation to design and install design a proper ventilation system, (they stuck in 2 x Xpelairs).
  3. NEVER re-tested the environment to see if the Xpelair fans worked, we suspect they made things worse by increasing evaporation rate.
  4. NEVER informed personnel of enlisted ranks that their workplace was contaminated to dangerous levels.

DELAY – DENY – DIE