PRESS RELEASE – ACCAS launch de-election campaign for Junior Minister for Defence

Both the Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar and the Minister of State with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe have failed to offer medical assistance to save the lives and ease the suffering of Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors and apparently believe the best place to obtain medical help is via the High Court. In the meantime the State Claims Agency is doing all in its power to prevent cases of injured Air Corps personnel from reaching court in order to hide their own negligence.

We recognise the Junior Minister Kehoe has a vulnerable Fine Gael seat in the Wexford constituency and we have started our campaign to prevent his re-election.

  • We need non means tested medical cards for personnel who served in Irish Air Corps prior to
  • We need awareness campaigns for exposed Air Corps personnel & former work experience students from the University of Limerick.
  • We need access to state backed medical vigilance & cancer screening programs.
  • We need coordination of GPs, consultants & hospitals nationwide.

Minister Kehoe does not have the courage nor conviction to help. Minister Kehoe appears happy to let men who served in the Irish Air Corps die unnecessarily. 19 men have died since the first Health & Safety protected disclosure was made in 2015. Some of these men could have been saved.

We will ACTIVELY canvass AGAINST Minister Paul Kehoe T.D. in the next general election. This is one seat Fine Gael will NOT be relying upon in the 33rd Dáil.

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Dáil Éireann Written Answers 23/10/18 – Department of Defence – Health and Safety

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 172

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the changes in health and safety policies that have been implemented following the publication of the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43404/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and will revert to the Deputy when it is to hand.

 

Jack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)

QUESTION NO: 173

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a programme that monitors actual exposure of Defence Forces members to hazardous substances either via personal air monitoring or biological monitoring as outlined in the report of the independent reviewer, protected disclosures, Air Corps is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43405/18]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have sought the information from the military authorities and I will revert to the Deputy when it is available.

 

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A message from the office of General Officer Commanding Air Corps

Having served as GOC AC for just over six months it is fair to say that I now have a new insight into the Air Corps and its people. Following on from the recent visit by Minister Kehoe, and my experience in the office to date, I can say with certainty and confidence that I am heartened by the dedication and professionalism of the Air Corps and its personnel, and the very reals individual commitment displayed by you all.

I make no secret of the fact that as an organisation SAFETY is our priority and I am very aware of the value and significance of your own individual contribution to this end. Each and every one of us has a direct responsibility when it comes to safety, and the culture we espouse to, and we must strive to do our very best to achieve this. I am conscious of the fine efforts of all with regard to this shared goal.

“Let there be no ambiguity the Air Corps has an excellent Safety Record”

Untimely deaths of serving and former Air Corps personnel are either increasing or we are missing earlier deaths. The statistics of untimely deaths quite clearly show that the GOC Air Corps is talking nonsense and misinforming the men & women under his command as well as members of the Oireachtas.

Let there be no ambiguity, the Air Corps has an excellent Safety Record and associated Health & Safety regime. We are at the forefront of industry when it comes to processes and standards. This is a real and direct result of the professionalism and expertise of our people and their commitment, and should not be underestimated by and of us.

Cleaning weapons after air firing at Waterford July 2018. Inadequate PPE – Skin, Eyes & Respiratory exposure all in breach of MSDS

I am fully aware that not everything is perfect and we still have a journey to go. With this in mind I want to re-emphasise that when we see a need for change and development that we drive that from within. My message is clear, we all have a duty to drive this progress and you are all empowered to take ownership, and indeed action, when required. Whether it’s the need for specific equipment or a course of training, don’t ignore it and move on , make it happen. It is only with this attitude and outlook that we will be truly successful in our quest. You have my backing and my confidence in this regard.

When a full time Health & Safety enforcement official was requested Air Corps management responded that his could not be economically justified. With 63 men dead, management cannot justify a full time Health & Safety enforcement official but can continue to justify a full time Catholic chaplain costing approximately €60,000 per annum.

Refueling in July 2017, skin and eyes exposed to fuel splashes. Respiratory exposure to kerosene & FSII fumes, aerosols & vapors.

In closing, I am filed with pride on a daily basis when I see the dedication and commitment of our people. Your work and your actions make a real and tangible contribution to the State and its Citizens. and this should never be undervalued. I truly hope that you share in this pride and continue to demonstrate the admirable ethos and values that define the Air Corps

Sean Clancy
Brigadier General
General Officer Commanding the Air Corps

January 2018

***

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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

*****

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.

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Hexamethylene Diisocyanate – Just one of the toxic chemicals the Irish Air Corps and State Claims Agency want to hide from former personnel!

  1. Exposure can occur when isocyanates are curing or when cured isocyanates are heated.
  2. An individual’s response to isocyanate exposure can be immediate or may be DELAYED FOR SEVERAL YEARS.
  3. Skin exposure can also cause respiratory sensitisation.
  4. The odour threshold for isocyanates, i.e. the level at which an individual can smell an isocyanate, is typically higher than the allowed exposure limits.
  5. The Air Corps did eventually provide a “supplied air” respirator to spray paint & welding personnel. Unfortunately they sourced the “supplied air” from an old machine compressor located in ERF where the air had previously tested as 3.5 times over the allowed limit for Dichloromethane i.e. allowed limit was 50ppm and sourced air was from a location measured at 175ppm…out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Air Corps Hexamethylene Diisocyanate Usage

Hexamethylene Diisocyanates were a chemical component of polyurethane paint hardener used by the Spray Paint Shop (Dope Shop) at Baldonnel. For most of the existence of this shop personnel were NOT supplied with ANY PPE. The walls between the Spray Paint Shop and Engineering Wing Hangar & Workshops were not sealed and so Hexamethylene Diisocyanate and other chemicals entered these workplaces whilst spraying was in progress exposing all personnel.

Furthermore if a component could not be removed from an aircraft for spray painting it was spray painted in-situ in Engineering Wing Hangar whilst unprotected line & tech personnel worked in adjoining offices & workshops or on other aircraft in the hangar.

Visiting personnel to Engineering Wing hangar such as BFTS personnel doing an IRAN, Heli personnel doing an overhaul & even Military Police on a walkabout were also exposed.

A “waterfall” system with an extractor fan was also present. Personnel spray painted aircraft components toward the waterfall which captured most of the over-spray droplets. Fumes from this waterfall were then extracted by a fan, up a duct and released at approximately 3m height where the prevailing winds then carried the extracted fumes in the doors & windows of : 

  • 5th Maintenance Engineers
  • Air Corps Apprentice School
  • Avionics Squadron
  • BFW Stores
  • Engine Repair Flight
  • Old Tech Stores
  • Training Wing HQ Prefab
  • Parachute Shop

5-20% of people are prone to isocyanate sensitisation. and isocyanate cross sensitisation is a recognised phenomenon. Sensitisation is irreversible and unfortunately once sensitised it is next to impossible to avoid isocyanate allergy triggers in the modern environment as they are used to make all Polyurethane products.

It is also likely that health effects are suffered beyond the respiratory system & skin for example the gastric & nervous systems and it is also probable that sensitisation to isocyanates will lead to allergies to other unrelated chemicals leading to a cascade of triggering chemicals allergies & intolerance for over exposed individuals.

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Enterprise Risk Management Recognition for the Defence Forces

Defence Forces personnel being presented with certificates from the State Claims Agency in McKee Barracks in recognition of compliance with health and safety management system audit process.

In photo from left to right: Comdt Thomas Farrell (OC Gormanston, Defence Forces), Sgt Gerald O’Gorman (Unit Safety Officer, 30 Inf Bn, Kilkenny, Defence Forces), Fiona Kearns (Senior Enterprise Risk Manager, SCA), Comdt Noel Maher (Defence Force Safety Officer), Cpl Ross Hayden (Unit Safety Officer Air Corps Military Training College), Ciarán Breen (Director, SCA), Brig Gen Peter O’Halloran Assistant Chief Of Staff, Capt Bronagh McMorrow (Unit Safety Officer CIS Group DFTC), Pat Kirwan (Deputy Director, SCA), Comdt Conor Ryan (Formation Safety Officer, DFTC), Paul Burke (Enterprise Risk Manager, SCA)

See State Claims Agency website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

Safe Handling of Cresols, Xylenols & Cresylic Acids

Introduction

Cresols, xylenols and cresylic acids are hazardous substances and dangerous both to people and the environment if handled improperly. Cresols, xylenols and cresylic acid products produced by Sasol Chemicals (USA) LLC are highly versatile materials and are used as intermediates in the manufacture of a wide variety of industrial products such as resins, flame retardants, antioxidants, and coatings. In these and other applications, cresylic acids can be stored, transferred, processed and disposed of safely when proper procedures and safeguards are used. 

“Cresol” refers to any of the three isomers of methylphenol (C7H8O) or combinations thereof. “Cresols” commonly refer to a mixture which is predominantly methylphenol but may also contain lesser amounts of other alkylphenols. “Xylenol” is a common name for any of the six isomers of dimethylphenol (C8H10O) or their various combinations. Material which is predominantly dimethylphenol but which also contains ethylphenols and other alkylphenols may be referred to as “Xylenols”. “Cresylic acid” is a generic term referring to various combinations of cresols, xylenols, phenol or other alkylphenols (ethylphenols, propylphenols, trimethylphenols, etc.). 

Purpose & Scope

The purpose of this document is to provide information gathered through Sasol’s long experience in the safe handling of cresylic acids. It focuses on basic and practical information about working safely with these substances. Additional references are provided and it is strongly recommended that these and others be consulted prior to working with cresylic acids. Please do not hesitate to contact your regional Sasol office if we can be of assistance in the safe storage, handling, processing and disposal of our products.

Hazards

Health Hazards

The primary dangers posed in handling cresylic acids are those resulting from physical exposure. Cresylic acids are highly corrosive and contact with exposed skin or mucous membranes causes severe burns. These burns progress from an initial whitening of the exposed skin to blackishbrown necroses within 24 hours after exposure. Cresylic acids also exhibit anesthetic properties. Therefore, victims frequently misjudge the extent of their exposure when the initial burning sensation rapidly subsides. This can result in prolonged contact, causing toxic effects in addition to the corrosive damage. 

Cresylic acids are readily absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes in liquid or vapor form and act as systemic toxins for which there is no established treatment. Relatively small areas of exposure (e.g. an arm or a hand) can allow sufficient absorption to cause severe poisoning. Progressive symptoms of such poisoning include headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, muscular twitching, mental confusion, loss of consciousness and, possibly, death from lethal paralysis of the central nervous system. Chronic exposure can lead to loss of appetite, vomiting, nervous disorders, headaches, dizziness, fainting and dermatitis. 

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) has established 5ppm or 22 mg/m3 permissible exposure limits (PEL’s) for cresols on an 8-hour time-weighted average basis. OSHA guidelines also indicate that adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be employed to avoid skin contact with cresols. Cresylic acids are not listed as carcinogens by OSHA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Environmental Hazards

Cresylic acids show high acute toxicity towards both fish and aquatic invertebrates and must be prevented from entering surface or ground waters. Depending upon the specific composition, the material may be classified as a marine pollutant. Please refer to the current label and safety datasheet.

Controls for Working with Cresols

Safe storage, handling, processing and disposal of cresylic acids begin long before they ever arrive on-site. Measures necessary to ensure the health and well-being of employees, customers, the community and the  environment include the development of effective administrative and engineering controls designed to specifically address the hazards associated with cresylic acids. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is integral to safe handling and should be viewed as the last line of defense against an accidental failure of the administrative and/or engineering controls. 

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are the foundation of any program designed for safely handling cresylic acids. Every company is unique in how they run their business and establish administrative controls. Those specifically developed for working with cresylic acids should address comprehensive process planning, thorough communication of hazards to employees and extensive training of employees on the proper implementation of all safety measures.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All personnel who work with or near cresylic acids must use adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). The extent of the potential exposure and consideration of established permissible exposure limits (PEL’s) should dictate the level of protection necessary. Personnel working with or near lab-scale quantities should always wear safety glasses with side-shields or

chemical mono-goggles, chemical-resistant or impermeable gloves, long-sleeved shirts and trousers as a minimum.

Circumstances such as elevated temperature and pressure or vacuum conditions should dictate if more substantial protection is necessary, including face shields, chemically impermeable outerwear, and breathing protection. Personnel transferring larger quantities of cresylic acids, or working in areas where a line-break could result in similar exposure, should always wear full protective equipment.

Emergency Procedures

Physical Exposure – External

The primary dangers involved in working with cresylic acids are the corrosive and toxic effects resulting from a physical exposure. Studies suggest that the severity of the exposure depends more on the magnitude of the exposed skin area than the concentration of cresylic acid. Therefore, the critical factor in dealing with an external physical exposure to cresylic acids is to minimize the extent and duration of the contact. To this end, the immediate response must be thorough flushing of the exposed areas with copious amounts of running water to remove all the cresylic acid in contact with the skin or eyes. Any contaminated clothing should be removed as quickly and carefully as possible during this process to avoid any additional skin contact.

Any exposed areas will have readily absorbed the cresylic acids and may be evidenced by a characteristic whitening of the skin. After thorough flushing with water, a solution consisting of 2 parts polyethylene glycol 400 to 1 part ethanol (PEG/EtOH) should be liberally applied to any affected skin (avoid contact with eyes), allowed to remain 15 to 30 seconds and then flushed away with fresh running water. Continue the cycling of PEG/EtOH and water for at least 15 minutes and then finish with thorough washing with soap and water. This decontamination procedure reduces the severity of the exposure, but does not completely eliminate damage to the skin or toxic effects. Medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.

Spill Containment & Clean-Up

Spill containment and cleanup of cresylic acids should only be performed by properly trained personnel employing an appropriate level of protective equipment as dictated by the extent of the spill. Small to medium spills on land should be surrounded by and absorbed onto inert clay absorbent and transferred to a disposal container. Larger land-spills should be diverted away from waterways, contained with booms, dikes or trenches, and collected in a vacuum truck. Any residual cresylic acids remaining after vacuuming should be cleaned up using the clay absorbent. All soils affected by the spill should be removed and placed in approved disposal containers.

Water spills are of particular concern due to the acute toxicity of cresylic acids to marine life. Clean up efforts should focus on containing the spill and quickly removing the cresylic acids that settle in deeper areas of the waterway. This can be aided greatly if the flow of water can be slowed or stopped. Further efforts should focus on removing as much of the dissolved cresylic acids as possible from the water using activated charcoal.

The composition and extent of any spill should be evaluated against local guidelines (ex. SARA Title III and RCRA in the U.S.) and reported to the proper agencies, if necessary. Any non disposable clean-up equipment should be thoroughly decontaminated with soap and water after use.

Source : SASOL / USA

Safe Handling of Cresols, Xylenols & Cresylic Acids

 *****


Some significant points to note about Cresylic Acid

Below is a photo taken 10 years ago in the Irish Army Air Corps NDT shop,  part of the Avionics / ERF building complex. Ardrox 666 can be seen spilled on the ground where it was free to leach through a shore onto the grass verge outside. 

  • 25% of fresh Ardrox 666 used by the Air Corps was Cresylic Acid. This percentage was higher in waste Ardrox 666 as Dichloromethane evaporated.
  • That greenish / yellow stain dripping from the extractor fan is also Ardrox 666 from the air.

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What are Isocyanates?

What are Isocyanates?

An isocyanate is any chemical that contains at least one isocyanate group in its structure. An isocyanate group is a group of atoms containing one nitrogen atom attached by a double covalent bond to one carbon atom, which in turn is attached by a second double bond to an oxygen atom (indicated in structure as -N=C=O). (Do not confuse this with the cyanate functional group which is arranged as –O–C≡N). A chemical containing two such isocyanate groups is called a diisocyanate. Common examples are toluene diisocyanate (TDI), hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI) and methylene diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI).

Isocyanates (a description which includes diisocyanates) are the raw materials that make up all polyurethane products. Isocyanates react with compounds containing alcohols to produce polyurethane polymers – which are used in polyurethane foams, thermoplastic elastomers and “2 pack” type polyurethane paints to improve the performance, durability and finish of painted surfaces. Jobs that may involve exposure to isocyanates include painting with polyurethane products, foam-blowing and the manufacture of polyurethane products like insulation materials, surface coatings, furniture, foam mattresses, under-carpet padding, packaging materials, laminated fabrics, polyurethane rubber, adhesives and also exposure can occur during the thermal degradation of polyurethane products.

Health Effects

Exposure to hazardous materials may be acute or chronic. Acute exposures refer to single high concentration exposures over shorter periods, while chronic exposures are repeated or continuous exposures over longer periods. Exposures to any toxic material may have either acute, immediate effects and/or chronic, long term health effects.

Inhalation:

Isocyanates are known to have a strong effect on the respiratory tract in some people. It is reported that there is a susceptible group in the population (estimated to be 5-20% of workers who are exposed occupationally) who can become sensitised to Isocyanates. Sensitization is the body’s hyper-reactive (allergy-like) response to a substance which has been touched or inhaled by a susceptible individual. Sensitization may develop as a result of a large single overexposure, for example, from a spill or accident, or from repeated overexposure at lower levels.

Once sensitised, these people, when later exposed to even very low concentrations of isocyanates even at levels below the exposure standard, can react by developing asthma-like symptoms, such as chest tightness, cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. Such attacks may occur up to several hours after cessation of exposure (for example, during the night after exposure) but, if a person is particularly sensitive, the attack can occur earlier or immediately. This sensitisation is essentially irreversible and can prevent any further work for the individual in their job using Isocyanates or any position associated with use of Isocyanates – even at very low levels below the regulated exposure level and that may not affect others. Many spray painters working in smash repair shops have had to leave the industry because they are sensitised to isocyanates.

An individual’s response to isocyanate exposure can be immediate or may be delayed for several years. Asthmatic people are more prone to sensitisation and other adverse reactions. Persons with a history of asthma, allergies, hay fever, recurrent acute bronchitis or any occupational chest disease or impaired lung function is advised against risking exposure to isocyanates. In rare cases, death has occurred from a severe asthma attack after significant isocyanate exposure.

Skin

Isocyanates are also skin irritants (causing inflammation and dermatitis) and there is some evidence that skin exposure can also cause respiratory sensitisation.

Eyes

Isocyanates are an irritant to the eyes. Splashes can cause severe chemical conjunctivitis.

Other Health Effects

Other health effects which have been reported include liver and kidney dysfunction. Some Isocyanate materials are considered to be potential human carcinogens (IARC).

Spraying Isocyanate Paints

Spray painters need to understand the health risks involved in spraying polyurethane paints – these are the two-pack mixes of polyurethane paints and possibly also in the one-pack moisture-cured mixes. These products are widely used in the automotive and other industries because of their excellent gloss, hardness, adhesion and chemical resistance.

The major hazard with spraying polyurethane paints is breathing the mist or aerosol droplets of the paint spray and absorbing the isocyanate and other components into your lungs.

The odour threshold for isocyanates, i.e. the level at which an individual can smell an isocyanate, is typically higher than the allowed exposure limits. In other words, if a painter smells the sweet, fruity, pungent odour of an isocyanate, they are probably already overexposed. That is why the recommended respiratory protection for employees spraying isocyanates is a supplied air respirator and not an air purifying respirator (i.e. filter cartridge style). The issue with use of air purifying respirators is that they will reach a point at which the filter becomes saturated and will no longer capture the isocyanate or other solvents. When that filter breakthrough happens, an Isocyanates overexposure can occur, potentially causing an irreversible sensitization. Use of a supplied air system removes this filter change factor – it does not rely on the painter changing his gas/vapour filters at appropriate intervals.

Note: if isocyanate-containing paint is applied by brush, roller or dipping, in a well ventilated area, there is generally no more hazard than with ordinary paints. These application methods usually do not produce the higher concentrations of isocyanate vapour associated with spraying.

After curing, polyurethane paints contain no free isocyanates and are not hazardous under normal use. However, welding or burning of polyurethane coated surfaces can release a range of contaminants. Gases or vapours evolved can include HDI, TDI, MDI as well as many other compounds (metal fumes, organic gases or vapours, particulates), depending on the original polyisocyanate resin used. When welding or cutting metal coated with a polyurethane coating, a worker may be exposed to a range of these decomposition products which will vary depending on type of process being used to weld or cut, the nature of the base metal and type of coating. Respiratory protection that is suitable for welding applications will also provide suitable respiratory protection in these cases

Source 3M Australia / New Zealand

http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/777847O/isocyanates-3m-techupdate.pdf

 *****

Some significant points to note from this 3M document.

  1. Exposure can occur when cured isocyanates are heated.
  2. An individual’s response to isocyanate exposure can be immediate or may be DELAYED FOR SEVERAL YEARS.
  3. Skin exposure can also cause respiratory sensitisation.
  4. The odour threshold for isocyanates, i.e. the level at which an individual can smell an isocyanate, is typically higher than the allowed exposure limits.
  5. The Air Corps did eventually provide a “supplied air” respirator to spray paint & welding personnel. Unfortunately they sourced the “supplied air” from an old machine compressor located in ERF where the air had previously tested as 3.5 times over the allowed limit for Dichloromethane i.e. allowed limit was 50ppm and sourced air was from a location measured at 175ppm…out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Air Corps Isocyanate Usage

Isocyanates were used by the Spray Paint Shop (Dope Shop) at Baldonnel. For most of the existence of this shop personnel were NOT supplied with ANY PPE. The walls between the Spray Paint Shop and Engineering Wing Hangar & Workshops were not sealed and so isocyanates and other chemicals entered these workplaces whilst spraying was in progress exposing all personnel.

Furthermore if a component could not be removed from an aircraft for spray painting it was spray painted in-situ in Engineering Wing Hangar whilst unprotected line & tech personnel worked in adjoining offices & workshops or on other aircraft in the hangar.

A “waterfall” system with an extractor fan was also present. Personnel spray painted aircraft components toward the waterfall which captured most of the over-spray droplets. Fumes from this waterfall were then extracted by a fan, up a duct and released at approximately 3m height where the prevailing winds then carried the extracted fumes in the doors & windows of Avionics Squadron & Engine Repair Flight exposing further unprotected personnel.

Sensitisation is irreversible and once sensitised it is next to impossible to avoid isocyanates in the modern environment. It is also likely that health effects are suffered beyond the respiratory system & skin for example the gastric & nervous systems. 

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Dáil Éireann Written Answers 18/10/17 – Defences Forces – Protected Disclosures

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 38

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on a person’s (details supplied) contention contained within their report on health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome that they lacked the powers, experience and competence to investigate the allegations made by the whistleblowers; the reason the scope of a review was so limited despite assurances made by him in Dáil Éireann that the review would adequately deal with the allegations made in the protective disclosures received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44025/17]

Clare Daly (Dublin Fingal, Independent)

QUESTION NO: 47

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to commission a second review of claims by former Air Corps staff that say their exposure to toxic chemicals from the late 1980s to the early 2000s caused chronic illnesses in view of the fact that the person commissioned to perform the first review (details supplied) has stated that they were not in a position to consider the substances in use or implications for human health arising from such use in view of the fact these issues are outside their competence. [43976/17]

Séan Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 165

o ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the report into allegations contained within protective disclosures relating to Casement Aerodrome fails to address that staff are at greater risk of serious illness as a result of their service at Baldonnel; and his views on whether these serious matters can only be properly assessed through a thorough health study and survey of current and former members. [44041/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 47 and 65 together.

The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces are a priority for me; that is why I ensured that protected disclosures alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances were investigated by an independent third party. The reviewer’s report has indicated that he felt that given the breadth of the remit of the Terms of Reference he commented in general terms on the Defence Force safety regime.

It must be remembered that prior to the receipt of the disclosures, litigation had first been initiated in relation to the subject matter of the disclosures. This therefore complicated the approach to be taken in developing any parallel process. Notwithstanding this significant challenge, I put in place just such a parallel process. In light of the legally complex situation, I believe it was appropriate that an experienced legal professional was appointed.

It was the view of the independent reviewer that the Courts are best placed to examine issues in relation to allegations which were already subject to litigation. This is so given the historic nature of the complaints, and, significantly, that it potentially affects the reputations and good names of individuals. What the report shows is the difficulty in putting a parallel process to the courts in place.

The report also notes that the Health and Safety Authority is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations.

I have furnished the report to those who made the protected disclosures and, before considering any further steps, I will await their views.

Separately and in parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps has continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to improve its health and safety regime. I have been informed by the military authorities that 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. Subject to completion of the improvement plan the HSA investigation is closed. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

*****

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European Commission – Pregnant Worker Directive 92/85/EC

Directive 92/85/EC – Pregnant Workers

Introduced 19th of October 1992

Pregnant woman standing outside on a sunny day

Objective

The objective of this Directive is to protect the health and safety of women in the workplace when pregnant or after they have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding.

Contents

Under the Directive, a set of guidelines detail the assessment of the chemical, physical and biological agents and industrial processes considered dangerous for the health and safety of pregnant women or women who have just given birth and are breast feeding.

The Directive also includes provisions for physical movements and postures, mental and physical fatigue and other types of physical and mental stress.

Pregnant and breastfeeding workers may under no circumstances be obliged to perform duties for which the assessment has revealed a risk of exposure to agents, which would jeopardize their safety or health. Those agents and working conditions are defined in Annex II of the Directive.

Member States shall ensure that pregnant workers are not obliged to work in night shifts when medically indicated (subject to submission of a medical certificate).

Employers or the health and safety service will use these guidelines as a basis for a risk evaluation for all activities that pregnant or breast feeding workers may undergo and must decide what measures should be taken to avoid these risks. Workers should be notified of the results and of measures to be taken which can be adjustment of working conditions, transfer to another job or granting of leave.

The Directive grants maternity leave for the duration of 14 weeks of which 2 weeks must occur before birth.

Women must not be dismissed from work because of their pregnancy and maternity for the period from the beginning of their pregnancy to the end of the period of leave from work.

Annex I – Non exhaustive list of agents and working conditions referred to in Art.4 of the directive (assessment and information)

A. Agents

1. Physical agents where these are regarded as agents causing foetal lesions and/or likely to disrupt placental attachment, and in particular:

(a) shocks, vibration or movement;

(b) handling of loads entailing risks, particularly of a dorsolumbar nature;

(c) noise;

(d) ionizing radiation (*);

(e) non-ionizing radiation;

(f) extremes of cold or heat;

(g) movements and postures, travelling – either inside or outside the establishment – mental and physical fatigue and other physical burdens connected with the activity of the worker within the meaning of Article 2 of the Directive.

2. Biological agents

Biological agents of risk groups 2, 3 and 3 within the meaning of Article 2 (d) numbers 2, 3 and 4 of Directive 90/679/EEC (¹), in so far as it is known that these agents or the therapeutic measures necessitated by such agents endanger the health of pregnant women and the unborn child and in so far as they do not yet appear in Annex II.

3. Chemical agents

The following chemical agents in so far as it is known that they endanger the health of pregnant women and the unborn child and in so far as they do not yet appear in Annex II:

(a) substances labelled R40 (limited evidence of a carcinogenic effect), R45 (May cause cancer), R46 (May cause inheritable genetic damage), and R47 (May cause birth defects) under Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548/EEC) in so far as they do not yet appear in Annex II;

(b) chemical agents in Annex I to Directive 90/394/EEC (Protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens) ;

(c) mercury and mercury derivatives;

(d) antimitotic drugs;

(e) carbon monoxide;

(f) chemical agents of known and dangerous percutaneous absorption.

B. Processes

Industrial processes listed in Annex I to Directive 90/394/EEC.

C. Working conditions

Underground mining work.

Annex II – Non exhaustive list of agents and working conditions referred to in Art.6 of the directive (cases in which exposure is prohibited)

A. Pregnant workers within the meaning of Article 2 (a)

1. Agents

(a) Physical agents

Work in hyperbaric atmosphere, e.g. pressurized enclosures and underwater diving.

(b) Biological agents

The following biological agents:

– toxoplasma,

– rubella virus,

unless the pregnant workers are proved to be adequately protected against such agents by immunization.

(c) Chemical agents

Lead and lead derivatives in so far as these agents are capable of being absorbed by the human organism.

2. Working conditions

Underground mining work.

B. Workers who are breastfeeding within the meaning of Article 2 (c)

1. Agents

(a) Chemical agents

Lead and lead derivatives in so far as these agents are capable of being absorbed by the human organism.

2. Working conditions

Underground mining work.

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The Irish Army Air Corps only started carrying out “adequate” risk assessments in the past year so for 25 years pregnant females at Baldonnel were dangerously exposed to Carcinogens, Mutagens & Teratogens.

Any pregnant females working in proximity to running aircraft or aircraft being refueled, such as in the ramp area, or downwind of the ramp were exposed.

  • Exhaust gasses contain Carbon Monoxide as well as TetraEthyl Lead and other hydrocarbon fumes.
  • AVGAS – 100LL  refuelling fumes contained Gasoline, Tetraethyl Lead, Toluene, Xylene, Ethylbenzene, Cyclohexane, n-Hexane, Trimethylbenzene, Naphthalene and Isopropylbenzene.
  • AVTUR – Jet A1 refueling fumes contain Kerosine, Ethylbenzene, Xylene and Isopropylbenzene.
  • Fuel System Anti Icing additives used by the Irish Army Air Corps included 2-(2-methoxyethoxy)ethanol which is a known to cause reproductive and developmental toxic effects.

Furthermore pregnant females working in or entering into Avionics, ERF or Engineering Wing hangar were being exposed to further known Carcinogens, Mutagens and Teratogens including Dichloromethane, Isocyanates & Trichloroethylene to name but a few.

Due to the fact that the working dress & overalls of technicians were (and still are) brought home to be washed in domestic family washing machines it is extremely likely that pregnant spouses & partners of Air Corps personnel were also affected.

This may have lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, lifelong genetic diseases & developmental conditions such as autism in the children of personnel.