Air Corps official denies documents destroyed

An Air Corps official has rejected claims that inspection reports at the centre of legal cases against the State were deliberately destroyed, describing the allegations as malicious, writes Joe Leogue.

Air Corps tail wags ministerial dog.

The rebuke of the claims is contained in a series of emails between the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner.

The State faces legal action from several former Air Corps technicians who claim the Defence Forces failed to adequately protect them from the harmful effects of the toxic chemicals they used on a daily basis.

Four whistleblowers have made protected disclosures on health and safety issues within the Air Corps — with two alleging that inspection reports show the Defence Forces were aware of safety shortcomings in the 1990s were deliberately destroyed as part of a cover-up.

However, Comdt Mark Donnelly, the Air Corps formation safety adviser, rejected these claims, and said the missing reports were “misplaced with the passage of time”.

“AC Formation and former Formation safety personnel have already commented on their concerns regarding these allegations,” Comdt Donnelly wrote in an email on March 8.

“These allegations of deliberate destruction of such documents are completely unfounded. It is my opinion that these comments are intended to be inflammatory, vexatious and malicious.”

Read more in the Irish Examiner

Developments in laboratory diagnostics for Isocyanate Asthma

Purpose of review

Isocyanates, reactive chemicals used to generate polyurethane, are a leading cause of occupational asthma worldwide. Workplace exposure is the best-recognized risk factor for disease development, but is challenging to monitor. Clinical diagnosis and differentiation of isocyanates as the cause of asthma can be difficult. The gold-standard test, specific inhalation challenge, is technically and economically demanding, and is thus only available in a few specialized centers in the world. With the increasing use of isocyanates, efficient laboratory tests for isocyanate asthma and exposure are urgently needed.

Recent findings

The review focuses on literature published in 2005 and 2006. Over 150 articles, identified by searching PubMed using keywords ‘diphenylmethane’, ‘toluene’ or ‘hexamethylene diisocyanate’, were screened for relevance to isocyanate asthma diagnostics. New advances in understanding isocyanate asthma pathogenesis are described, which help improve conventional radioallergosorbent and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay approaches for measuring isocyanate-specific IgE and IgG. Newer immunoassays, based on cellular responses and discovery science readouts are also in development.

Summary

Contemporary laboratory tests that measure isocyanate-specific human IgE and IgG are of utility in diagnosing a subset of workers with isocyanate asthma, and may serve as a biomarker of exposure in a larger proportion of occupationally exposed workers.

***

Introduction

Diisocyanates (toluene diisocyanate, TDI; hexamethylene diisocyanate, HDI; and diphenylmethane diisocyanate, MDI) or functionally similar polymeric isocyanates are the obligate cross-linking agent for the commercial production of polyurethane, a polymer upon which modern society has become dependent. Millions of tons of isocyanate are produced and consumed annually throughout the world in a wide variety of end-use work environments [1,2–5,6•,7•]. Workplace exposure remains the best-recognized risk factor for isocyanate asthma, but is complicated to quantitate, involving mixtures of isomers and ‘prepolymers’ diluted in solvents, in aerosol and vapor phases. In certain occupational settings, exposure can cause isocyanate asthma and long-lasting bronchial hyperreactivity [1,8,9,10•,11•]. Early recognition of isocyanate asthma and prompt removal from isocyanate exposure improves the long-term prognosis for sensitive individuals [9]. There thus exists the need for practical screening/diagnostic tests for isocyanate asthma as well as tests that can monitor personal exposure.

The clinical presentation of isocyanate asthma is strikingly similar to common environmental asthma, prompting the hypothesis that the disease has an immunological basis, although subtle differences have been noted [9,10•,12•]. Animal models support this hypothesis, and are beginning to dissect the potential role of individual genes with transgenic strains [13••,14••,15,16••,17,18]. Allergists and immunologists have overcome substantial challenges working with reactive isocyanates to develop serology assays for isocyanate-specific antibodies [19–21]. Such assays have provided evidence to support allergic asthma to isocyanate in a small percentage of workers, but cannot detect isocyanate-specific IgE in the majority of sensitive individuals. These results have left great uncertainty in the field. Does isocyanate asthma involve mechanisms of pathogenesis (e.g. non-IgE) distinct from those in common atopic asthma or are specific IgE antibodies present, but our detection assay for them is flawed? Are we using the wrong antigenic form of isocyanate in our serology tests, or testing workers at the wrong time (after removal from exposure)? Does isocyanate asthma, as presently defined, possibly represent a spectrum of diseases, which only in some cases is associated with an antibody response [3,9,10•]?

The present review summarizes the rationale and use of clinical laboratory tests for immune responses that reflect isocyanate exposure and asthma, with emphasis on data generated within the past year. The potential utility of ‘isocyanate-specific’ serum IgE and IgG as biomarkers and the isocyanate antigen recognized by these immunoglobulins are described [22••,23]. Clinical usage and limits of contemporary assays for isocyanate asthma and exposure are discussed along with promising future assays [20,24,25••].

Read more on the US National Center for Biotechnology Information

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131002/

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The Irish Army Air Corps has dismissed a number of previously fit personnel as suffering from asthma. It has never carried out a health study of personnel exposed long term and without protection to Isocyanates and has never carried out adequate risk specific health surveillance. Neither has the Air Corps ever carried out risk specific health surveillance for personnel who suffered long term exposure to jet fuel & jet exhaust gasses. 

Bizarrely serving and former Air Corps personnel have been “reassured” by Air Corps medical personnel that their asthma does not have a workplace related cause despite no evidence of any testing for them to form a conclusion either way.

Considering what is now known about the extremely poor chemical health & safety environment in the Irish Air Corps any doctor, dismissing without appropriate testing, any possibility of a workplace casual link is surely opening himself or herself up to accusations of professional misconduct.

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

The Irish Aviation Authority Director of Safety Regulation was GOC Irish Air Corps when this photo was taken

The current Director of Safety Regulation at the Irish Aviation Authority was General Officer Commanding of the Irish Air Corps on date photo below was taken.

The Irish Aviation Authority Director of Safety Regulation was GOC Irish Air Corps when this photo was taken

The current Director of Safety Regulation at the Irish Aviation Authority was General Officer Commanding of the Irish Air Corps on date photo below was taken.

PDFORRA to help Air Corps whistleblower facing dismissal

PDFORRA, the organisation representing enlisted Defence Forces members, says it will assist the Air Corps whistleblower facing dismissal next month.

The staff member, who is facing dismissal for “chronic ineffectivity” due to anxiety and a “work-related industrial dispute”, previously met with Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe to allege that an Air Corps official ordered the shredding of health-and-safety inspection reports detailing conditions at Casement Aerodrome.

The man was the second person to make the allegation, following a protected disclosure from another whistleblower which claimed that a named official ordered the destruction of the documents.

The State is facing legal action from a number of former Air Corps technicians, who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by exposure to toxic chemicals at Casement Aerodrome.

It has been alleged that the inspection reports will show the Defence Forces knew since the 1990s its safety measures were not up to standard, and that they were destroyed as part of a cover-up within the Air Corps. A spokesperson for PDFORRA said it will assist the whistleblower to ensure his rights under the Protected Disclosure Act are vindicated.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Minister of state for defence to probe whistle blower dismissal claim

Minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe has said he has written to the Defence Forces seeking a report on claims that an Air Corps whistle-blower is facing dismissal and that documents key to legal cases against the State were deliberately shredded.

The Irish Examiner recently reported that two separate whistle-blowers told Mr Kehoe that a Defence Forces official ordered the destruction of health and safety reports that showed that the Air Corps’ management of the use of hazardous chemicals was lacking.

On Monday, this newspaper revealed that one of these whistle-blowers is now facing dismissal from the Defence Forces.

In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Kehoe confirmed he was informed of the allegations.

“Certain allegations were made that the documents were destroyed,” Mr Kehoe confirmed.

“I have requested a report from the Chief of Staff on the actions taken on foot of the accusation. When the report is to hand I will consider what further steps may be required to take.

“I didn’t destroy any reports, nor am I aware of anyone destroying any reports but I have asked the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces to investigate this matter, to find out about these reports and what happened them and to the reasons why they are not kept on record in the Defence Forces.

“Regarding the individual in the Defence Forces and a dismissal, I only became aware of this, I don’t want to say an exact date, but I’ve asked for a report on that issue.”

Mr Kehoe angrily rejected opposition party suggestions that the Government has been slow to address the matter.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Air Corps accuser facing dismissal in August; Whistleblower disclosed use of hazardous chemicals at aerodrome

A serving Air Corps whistle-blower is facing dismissal from the Defence Forces next month, due to an “industrial dispute”.

“Good News”  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cares more about socks than service personnel.

The Irish Examiner can reveal that the man, who made protected disclosures about health and safety management of hazardous chemicals at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, has been summoned to appear before a Defence Forces medical board in August.

A brief report, issued prior to the board meeting, has accused the member of “chronic ineffectivity” due to anxiety and a “work-related industrial dispute”.

The Protected Disclosures Act was introduced in 2014 to protect whistle-blowers from being penalised for reporting issues in their workplace.

This newspaper can also reveal that the man previously met with junior defence minister Paul Kehoe in Government Buildings, to discuss his concerns.

The man told Mr Kehoe that an Air Corps official ordered the shredding of health and safety inspection reports dating back to the 1990s. He is the second whistleblower to make such an allegation.

The claim was also made in a written disclosure submitted by a different whistleblower, in April — a statement that further named the official alleged to have ordered the reports’ destruction.

However, Mr Kehoe has ruled out any investigation into the documents’ disappearance, despite previously admitting that he could only offer “speculative” reasons as to why they cannot be found.

Six former Air Corps staff are suing the State, claiming their chronic illnesses are as a result of their exposure to toxic chemicals used in the course of their duties.

Opposition TDs say they have seen copies of the 1990s inspection reports, and the reports are said to show that it was long-known that the conditions at Casement Aerodrome were not up to standard.

This has prompted claims that the Defence Forces’ copies of the documents were deliberately destroyed to cover up knowledge of workers’ exposure to harmful substances.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Why did Irish Air Corps hang Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney out to dry?

The Irish Examiner publisher a story this morning about a meeting that Micheál Martin & Lisa Chambers, of Fianna Fail, had with survivors of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical scandal.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he will raise the request in the Dáil, and said the Government’s response to the scandal has been “deficient” to date.

Mr Martin’s stance follows a recent meeting he and his party defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers held with a number of former Air Corps staff.

The group, all in their 40’s and 50’s, listed the litany of illnesses they have suffered since leaving the Air Corps, including rectal cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, heart attacks, autoimmune diseases, depression and anxieties, solvent-induced encephalopathy, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — even among non-smokers.

“All suffer significant health issues,” Mr Martin said, describing the encounter as a “sad and often difficult” meeting.

“One has undergone five surgeries and is in constant pain. They all have personal issues. One has had two heart attacks and in one instance was kept alive by his wife and a first responder,” said Mr Martin.

“All were exposed to chemicals, and in at least one case, the person was ‘tubbed’ — sat in a bath and doused in chemicals which was a ritual at the time,” he said.

“I was taken aback at some of what they had to say, particularly about not having protective clothing.

“One told me that subsequent to his time at the Air Corps, he went into private industry and couldn’t get over the contrast in terms of the attitude and directions for handling chemical spills and use of protective suits. The contrast was striking.”

Read more about Fianna Fail calls for an inquiry into the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical scandal on the Examiner website.

Read the Irish Times article about Coveney

Read The Journal article with Varadkar defending Coveney (lots of views, lots of comments…popular subject).

But hours later the Irish Times ran with an article, based upon FoI requests that Simon Coveney as Minister for Defence had questioned the professional judgement of an Irish Air Corps pilot who cancelled a ministerial flight due to a forecast of fog at their Cork destination.

Anyone familiar with the media will know that journalists will seek an FoI, not on the off chance of discovering something, but because they have been already briefed that something exists. The journalists are rarely taking a stab in the dark, they are following a scent. It also appears that the Irish  Times may be in possession of this information for a number of weeks if not months (the incident took place in June 2015) so the question must be asked why was it not released previously.

It is significant that the Irish Air Corps have recently had a change of management at the top of the organisation with a new General Officer Commanding and a new Colonel. By all accounts this new GOC is a smart operator and is very politically aware.

So we wonder if it is possible that the Irish Times, who have mostly ignored the toxic chemical scandal, were primed with this story about Coveney? Like we said a relatively minor story about a Minister unhappy his ministerial flight was cancelled but a story that would be a hot news topic and would displace other stories of the day.

Who had the most to gain from a story that diverted attention away from the Irish Air Corps Health & Safety scandal and towards a government minister?

Big bad Fine Gael Minister bullying Air Corps pilot…BOOO. Poor Air Corps turned into an innocent victim……HURRAH…..What chemical problem???

We would hope this is not the opening salvo in the propaganda fightback by the new GOC Air Corps and his management team. We hope it was not designed to keep the Irish Air Corps chemical scandal out of the headlines nor to mark the cards of Fine Gael and all serving Ministers that the Air Corps may have dirt on them.

Now that Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe is in possession of the long awaited report from the “independent 3rd party” investigator, we sincerely hope that the Irish Army Air Corps is not trying to influence & interfere with the democratic process.