The tiniest trickle of blood – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

The tiniest trickle of blood

My father was an aircraft technician in the Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel for 21 years. During his time there he worked on a variety of aircraft and worked with an assortment of chemicals and sprays often without, as he said himself, even glove protection.

Over that time he developed severe psoriasis on his body, but in particular his hands and legs. This resulted in intense itch and pain and a daily routine of medication and treatment of the various lesions on his legs and also a stay in St. Bricin’s Hospital. It was not until a combination of appointments with a renowned Traditional Medical Herbalist, coupled with his retirement from the Air Corps that improvements began. This psoriasis, while appearing at a much slighter level during his life, never appeared to the same extent after leaving Baldonnel.

My mother passed away in 2009, and since then Dad lived with my wife and I, and subsequently, our two daughters. He adored his family and his granddaughters. He also really enjoyed an active and healthy life, learning to swim, regularly walking, going dancing, and eating very healthily. He liked his few social pints but gave up smoking before his first granddaughter was born eight years ago. He also had regular full check-ups with his GP.

In December 2013, while Dad was feeling very well, in great form, he spotted the tiniest trickle of blood in his urine. After attending his GP and a urologist, it was confirmed that he had renal cancer, which had completely taken over one of his kidneys and indeed had also spread to his lungs. Treatment was possible but immediate: he would need to have his kidney removed and a tablet form of chemotherapy would need to be taken for the rest of his life. Thankfully medical advances had developed this treatment, otherwise he would not have survived.

Almost two years passed and Dad had little or no side-effects to his treatment other than his dark hair turning grey overnight. He maintained his life as it was, keeping up his hobbies and his active lifestyle, as well as continuing his breaks to Lanzarote. Unfortunately in November 2015, things began to change and his body rejected the tablet. He became very ill with a litany of mystery illnesses that befuddled doctors but, miraculously, he managed to survive and came home. However, he spent his New Year’s Day in A&E, complaining of intense pain in his back. On examination and scanning, it was found that he had a broken vertebrae due to cancer spreading to his back. Again, thankfully it was in the position that it was, as it was treatable and would not end up with him in a wheelchair. Inserting rods either side of his spine meant that he would walk again.

The last months of his life were a mix of regular check-ups, consultant appointments, progress and setbacks. It was a roller-coaster of emotions where his unyielding positivity was tested repeatedly but never left him. 

It would have been interesting to see if his background in Baldonnel could have informed his treatment, or if indeed anything could have been done to prevent his disease. However such thoughts are merely conjecture and would distract from the magnificent memories we hold of a man who touched so many hearts and leaves behind a legacy fitting for such a character.

Irish Air Corps Chemical List Update – Mastinox 6856k

We have just added some links to information on the constituent chemicals for Mastinox 6856k from PubChem the Open Chemistry Database. Please have a look at green links on our chemical info page here. We will add more on a regular basis.

Mastinox 6856k is a corrosion inhibitor and contains the following

  • Strontium Chromate
  • Barium Chromate
  • Xylene
  • Toluene
  • Ethylbenzene
  • N-Octane
  • Naptha
  • Heptane
  • Methylcyclohexane

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.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 24/05/17 – Department of Defence – Air Corps – Military Police

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a military police investigation has been commenced to ascertain under whose orders documentation of Air Corps air quality tests were destroyed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24894/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

As I indicated to the Deputy in my letter of 17 May 2017, an extensive search was undertaken by the military authorities to locate the two reports complied by Forbairt in 1995 and 1997. The military authorities also consulted with Enterprise Ireland (which superseded Forbairt). However, it has not been possible to locate the reports. I am advised by the military authorities that there are no plans to carry out an investigation into why these reports cannot be located.


Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a military police investigation has commenced to ascertain whether the failure to maintain health and safety standards and the subsequent illnesses caused to staff of the Air Corps breached military law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24895/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

As I indicated in my responses to other recent Parliamentary Questions on this issue, a small number of former and serving Air Corps personnel are suing the Minister for Defence alleging personal injuries arising from exposure to workplace chemicals. You will appreciate that given that these matters are subject to litigation, I am constrained in relation to commenting.

However, I am advised by the military authorities that there is no military police investigation into this matter. The statutory authority for dealing with health and safety matters in the workplace is the Health and Safety Authority.

The Deputy will be aware that following a number of inspections at the Air Corps premises at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, in 2016, the Health and Safety Authority issued a report of inspection with a number of general improvements and recommendations for follow up. The Air Corps committed to addressing these recommendations as part of an eight phase improvement plan. The military authorities have advised me that six of the eight phases have now been fully completed and a further phase is progressing well and will be completed shortly. The final phase is a continuous ongoing process.

You will also be aware that in September 2016 I appointed an independent third party to review allegations made in a number of protected disclosures relating to health and safety issues in the Air Corps which were received in late 2015 and early 2016. Once a final review is to hand, I will determine any further steps required and ensure that all recommendations, whether arising from the work of the Health and Safety Authority or the ongoing protected disclosure review, will be acted upon to ensure the safety of the men and women of the Air Corps.


Firstly the Health & Safety Authority do not have the remit, staff levels nor funding to investigate legacy Health & Safety issues.

Secondly there appears to be no attempts and no willingness by the military to hold anyone to account in Irish Army Air Corps management for completely ignoring government chemical Health & Safety legislation.

Third the minister has never made any reference, neither in Dáil Éireann nor in replies to parliamentary questions, to any concern held by him for the physical & mental health of former members of the Air Corps nor their partners & children.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 23/05/17 – Defence Forces – Suicide Rates

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of recorded suicides of personnel serving in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps from 2010 to date, in tabular form. [24001/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I am advised by the military authorities that the Defence Forces Personnel Management System does not capture data on the number of suicides of serving members of the Defence Forces.

Therefore the Defence Forces are not in a position to provide the information requested in relation to death by suicide. All sudden deaths must be reported to the relevant Coroner’s Office. It is a matter for the Coroner to decide whether a post mortem should be conducted and to determine the cause of death.


Considering the ongoing mental health issues concerning both Air Corps workplace chemical exposures and Larium, for the Minister & Defence Forces to wash their hands of this is simply shocking.

Why are our Defence Forces not maintaining these statistics like their British counterparts?

Irish Army Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure – Survivors List of Demands

The priorities of the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors is firstly to prevent further unnecessary loss of life amongst survivors and secondly to improve the quality of life of survivors by reducing unnecessary suffering.

Both the Royal Australian Air Force & the Armed forces of the Netherlands have offered templates as to how to approach unfortunate workplace chemical exposure issues with competence, fairness, justice & urgency.

We urge that all responsible organisations in the state such as political parties, government departments and the Defence Forces to work together to commit the state to provide the following for survivors as an ex. gratia scheme with no admission of liability by the state.

Current & future legal cases should be allowed to take their natural course unhindered whilst all survivors are cared for equally by the state.

Read more about our demands below.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 17/05/17 – Department of Defence – Protected Disclosures

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has received and read a recent protected disclosure on serious breaches of health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome, including claims that personnel have died prematurely as a result of handling hazardous chemicals without adequate protection from retired Air Corps personnel who worked on the base; and his plans to deal with these latest revelations. [23196/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

There are a number of elements to the correspondence to which the Deputy refers. I am arranging for the elements of the correspondence which relate to previous protected disclosures concerning health and safety issues in the Air Corps to be sent to the independent third party I appointed last year to review those allegations. Legal advice has recently been received in respect of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy and is being considered.

Once a final review is to hand, I will determine any further steps required and ensure that all recommendations will be acted upon to ensure the safety of the men and women of the Air Corps.

Watch Primetime on Tuesday 16th May where RTE will ask Minister Kehoe no hard questions about Air Corps Toxic Chemical Scandal.

Watch RTE Prime Time tomorrow featuring Minister Paul Kehoe and Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.

RTE will NOT be asking any hard questions about large numbers of poisoned Air Corps personnel at both Casement & Gormanston Aerodromes nor will they discuss the high number of deaths & mutagenic diseases amongst the children of serving and Air Corps personnel.

RTE would not engage with ACCAS for this program.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 04/04/17 – Department of Defence – Airfield Harvesting

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

698. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel receives moneys from the annual harvesting of silage on the airbase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16654/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the Military Authorities that the Air Corps operate a ‘safe grass’ policy in order to reduce the hazards posed on the airfield in Baldonnel by bird populations. This policy is an integral part of the wider bird control management program, which is line with best international practices and seeks to reduce the risk of bird strikes during critical phases of flight.

The airfield at Baldonnel is cultivated with FESCUE grass which was specifically sown and grown to prevent birds landing and nesting in the grass and thereby being a hazard to the aircraft. A contractor is hired to top the grass at a height of 9 inches throughout the growing season. The clippings are returned. The frequent topping of the grass and the return of clippings are required to produce an appropriate level of soil fertility to support adequate grass growth. The crop type does not have the nutrient needs for grazed cattle silage and the clippings are required to maintain nutrient levels in the soil.

Accordingly, the Air Corps receive no funding from the annual harvesting of silage on the airbase. As there is no harvesting of silage, the issue of income from harvesting does not arise.


Minister Paul Kehoe T.D. again misrepresents the truth. Is Minister Kehoe misleading in his answers to parliamentary questions or are the Irish Army Air Corps misleading the Minister? Someone is giving misleading answers that is for sure.

Photos below taken in the past week and posted on an Air Corps related Facebook page.

This last photo taken 13th May 2017

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 04/04/17 – Department of Defence – Air Corps Equipment

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

688. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the detail of the 2017 opening stock figure, current stock figure, cumulative new stock figure to date in 2017 and cumulative issued stock figure in 2017 for chemical hazard PPE respirators for technical personnel at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; and if he will exclude military grade respirators used for military training purposes. [16143/17]

689. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the detail of the 2016 opening stock figure, closing stock figure, cumulative new stock figure and cumulative issued stock figure for disposable coveralls at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. [16144/17]

691. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the testing and selection criteria for disposable overalls in use by the Air Corps to insure they offer personnel adequate protection from the toxic chemicals in use. [16146/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 688, 689 and 691 together.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to compile the information requested in the time available. My officials are working with the military authorities to obtain the information which will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Again Minister Paul Kehoe T.D. demonstrates that he is incapable of supplying simple answers to basic questions about the Irish Army Air Corps.  The answers to questions 688 & 689 are available at the touch of a button from the AMMS computer system.

It appears that either the Minister for Defence, the Department of Defence or the Defence Forces may have something to hide.