Human rights of members of the armed forces

Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on human rights of members of the armed forces

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 24 February 2010 at the 1077th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

J-51.  Current and, where applicable, former members of the armed forces should have access to information with regard to their exposure during service to situations, either past or present, which were or are potentially hazardous to their health.

When public authorities, including military authorities, engage in hazardous activities which might have latent adverse effects on health, they should put in place an accessible and efficient procedure which enables persons involved in such activities to access all relevant and appropriate information.

In addition, authorities should not only to disclose this type of information, but also to refrain from imposing a long and complex procedure to obtain such information.

Minister Paul Kehoe T.D. appears to be in breach of the human rights of Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors as his department refuses to inform military personnel who served in the Irish Army Air Corps of the hazardous & toxic chemicals they were actually exposed to in the working environment.

New additions to child illness list Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Scandal

New additions to child illness list in recent weeks are as follows:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism – Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Autism – DSM-IV
  • Autism – Tuberous sclerosis
  • Autism Spectrum
  • Cri-Du-Chat Syndrome
  • Developmental coordination disorder
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Hiatus Hernia
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Mitral insufficiency
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Trisomy 21
  • Ventricular Septal Defect
  • XYY Syndrome

See details at Child Illness List

Updated Photo of Irish Air Corps NDT Workshop

We have updated our annotated photograph of the black hole of Baldonnel, that being the Non Destructive Testing (NDT) workshop of the Engine Repair Flight (ERF).

We have also added the old European hazard symbols (up to 2007) as well as the current R-Phrases as sub-menus under the Chemical Info menu.

Below are just 2 (lethal) chemicals from 1 location. All tech locations in Baldonnel used chemicals as well as photo section and refuelers. In all up to 300 different chemicals were in use with ZERO safety precautions.

Chemetall Ardrox 666

  • Dichloromethane:Methylene Chloride (Xn, R40)
  • Cresylic Acid (T, C, R24/25, R34)
  • Solvent Naphtha (Xn, N, R10,R37, R51/55, R65, R66, R67)
  • Sodium Chromate (T+, N, R45, R46, R60, R61, R21, R25, R26, R34, R42/43, R48/23, R50/53)
  • Dipentene:Limonene (Xi, N, R10, R38, R43, R50/53)
Risk Phases
  • R45 May cause cancer.
  • R46 May cause heritable genetic damage.
  • R60 May impair fertility.
  • R61 May cause harm to the unborn child.
  • R34 Causes Burns.
  • R42/43 May cause sensitisation by inhalation and skin contact
  • R52/53 Harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long term averse effects in the aquatic environment.

Chemetall Ardrox 1074

  • Orthophosphoric Acid (C, R34)
  • Ethyl-methyl-ketone (F,Xi, R11, R36, R66, R67)
  • 2,2’-oxydiethanol;diethylene-glycol (Xn, R22)
  • 2-Butoxyethanol (Xn, R20/21/22, R36/38) Citric Acid (Xi,R36)
  • Hydroflouric acid (T+, C, R26/27/28, R35)
Risk Phases
  • R11 Highly Flammable
  • R20/21/22 Harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin or if swallowed.
  • R26/27/28 Very toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed.
  • R34/35 Causes burns / Severe Burns.
  • R36//37/38 Irritating to eyes, respiratory system and skin.
  • R66 Repeated exposure may cause skin dryness or cracking.
  • R67 Vapours may cause drowsiness and dizziness.

State blasted over Irish Army Air Corps Toxic Chemical safety

A whistle-blower has criticised the Government’s handling of allegations of health and safety management in the Air Corps, claiming that staff exposure to toxic chemicals has caused the deaths and chronic illnesses suffered by members and their families


 

The new protected disclosure, submitted earlier this week, claims that chemical exposures may have contributed to the cancers, depression, and cardiac diseases recorded in Air Corps staff, as well as the miscarriages and illnesses suffered by the partners and children of members.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website.

 

Silver Bullet – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

Finding a silver bullet would be a good thing.

It would be great to get a the definite answer or even to establish why I am suffering in silence, embarrassed by years of sudden uncontrollable bowel issues, breathing issues & aching to the bones even after the slightest bit of manual work. Looking at other men your age running and exercising every day without a hint of tiredness.

When you say to your family that you have no energy to do basic household maintenance work you really mean it and are not being lazy or when you suddenly seem to enter a dark mood and depressive state for no reason.

Have ticked a lot of the boxes for the range of “unexplained symptoms” listed so far and I am really hoping that they are not caused by the workplace environment & chemical products handled over the years. Because it creates a real daily worry as to what the future holds. What quality of life will I have if some of the more serious illnesses that colleagues have suffered eventually get a grip on me!

See the known list of illnesses suffered by Air Corp Chemical Abuse survivors below.

Blind Date – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

For a very long time now both my mother and my sister have been encouraging me to start writing a blog. ‘Tell people your story,’ they said. I never felt I’d anything interesting to write. Well my mother pointed out something interesting today. She said ‘it’s been twenty years since the date your eyesight went’. I never really thought of myself as getting old, but twenty years is a long time. How much has changed.

Back in 1996, I was 18 and in my second year as an apprentice with the Irish Air Corps. I had joined up when I was 16 and with typical teenage brashness I thought I was the shit. And sure why not. All I’d ever wanted to do was serve. After a youth watching Rambo, Top Gun and Hot Shots on an endless loop, I had my whole career planned out. Alas it was not to be. Over a period of a few weeks around March/April 1996 I started messing up a lot; maps upside down, knocking over pints, not being able to read my writing, not saluting officers, that sort of thing. I was also extremely fatigued.

I still remember the first trip to the medical aid post. ‘Put your hand over your right eye and read the chart,’ said Commandant Collins. Not a problem: Z W T 1 3 7 q e y. Easy. ‘Now cover up your left eye and read the chart’. ‘OK’, I said, ‘Can you put the chart back up please’. After that the fun and games started. After several trips to the medical aid post I found myself on rotation in and out of the Eye and Ear. I had every type of blood and eye test done. Along with an MRI I was being tested initially for a brain tumor and diabetes and then a whole rake of other conditions I’d never heard of at the time. They hadn’t a clue what was wrong. All this time the sight in my right eye was getting worse and the sight in my left eye decided to start packing it in. It’s hard to describe. Blurry cloudy vision. Loss of sharpness with your central vision effected the most. If you look at someone straight on from about a meter away, you can make out their hands and legs but they’ve no head.  Beyond a meter people become more like blurry colours moving around.

Although a total pain in the ass and not exactly what I wanted to be doing with my life, these trips to the Eye and Ear were entertaining nonetheless. As nobody knew what was wrong every doctor and med student wanted to poke around my eyeballs. My friends from the Air Corps who would accompany me on these trips would get rather jealous as a young pretty female med student would bend over and look into my eyes with some strange instrument. Then again they had a different view.

On another occasion though I was on my own. So what happens is you’re put in a big waiting room and given a raffle ticket. ‘Take a seat your number will be called’. From what I remember I was the youngest person there. Everyone else seemed to me at that time to be ancient. You have to really picture this scenario. It’s a room full of people with bad sight or bad hearing or because of their age, both.  A voice bellows from the top of the room ‘No. 17’ (it could have been any number I can’t remember). ‘Hmm’ I think to myself, ‘it might have been handy if I’d asked what number my ticket was’. There’s a pause, a bit of shuffling and mumbling. Half the people can’t see their tickets and the other half are asking ‘did someone say something’. ‘No. 17’ the voice from the top of the room bellows again. I get a nudge on the arm from an old lady beside me: ‘Excuse me son what number ticket do I have’. Absolutely comical.

On one of these trips to the Eye and Ear to get poked at again by so called experts who’d no idea what was wrong I was sitting in the waiting room when I heard a nurse talking to an older man. I was positive I recognised his voice. Getting up I went to the other end of the corridor. ‘Uncle Danny,’ I said, ‘Is that you’. (Uncle Danny was my mam’s uncle). ‘It is’, he said, ‘who’s that’. ‘It’s Wes,’ I said, ‘there’s something wrong with my sight. What are you here for?’ ‘My sights going too’, he said with a worried sigh. Not being able to see each other clearly we both could tell we were looking at each other and thinking ‘what the …’ The nurse was thinking the same. She went off to get the doctor.

With the extended family brought in we discover we have a condition called Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON). At the time there was no test in Ireland because it is a genetic condition. A cousin of my grandmother had been clinically diagnosed with mutation 11778. After we told the doctor about LHON I still remember the doctor taking down a book and blowing off the dust. (Or at least that’s my version of the account). ‘Yes that’s what you have. Some of the cells in the optic nerve are dead and the signal isn’t going to the brain. It’s a very rare condition’. Personally I’d have preferred to have won the lotto.

**********

As mentioned in the above story Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy involves genetic mutations that can lead to blindness through optical nerve mitochondrial depowering. One very interesting aspect to this disease is that only a minority of persons with the mutation actually suffer blindness. The breakdown by sex is that only 10% of females and only 40% of males with the mutation go blind.

For years the “trigger” for the blindness was unknown but in the past 20 years a number of trigger chemicals have been identified. One of these chemicals is an Alkane known as nHexane and it is important to note that this chemicals was involved in the intoxication & injury of 2 Air Corps technical personnel in 2015 that lead to the eventual Health & Safety Authority investigation.

Furthermore the neurotoxicity of nHexane is enhanced significantly in the presence of Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK). This is another chemical that was also used without any precaution for decades in the Irish Army Air Corps.

It is important to also note that the person in the story above went blind within two weeks of starting work in Engine Repair Flight (ERF). As an Air Corps Apprentice he only had to spend 10 weeks work experience in this location which were, unfortunately for him and others, life changing and career ending. ERF and its associated Non Destructive Testing (NDT) workshop (photographed below in 2007), were possibly one of the most chemically toxic workplaces anywhere in Ireland.

This workshop was found to be 3½ times over allowable limits for Dichloromethane (DCM) in 1995 but personnel were not warned and it was left operational for a further 12 years. During that time there were at least 5 adult deaths, at least 1 child deaths and and at least 2 children born with severe genetic mutations that we believe were associated with chemical exposures in this workshop alone. Chemicals in use were carcinogenic, mutagenic & teratogenic.

The engineering officer who commissioned these air quality tests is still serving in the Irish Army Air Corps in a senior role as is the engineering officer who ordered the test results destroyed in later years.

Irish Air Corps Chemical List Update – Trichloroethylene (TCE)

We have just added a link to information on Trichloroethylene 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.

It is interesting to note the large number of illnesses associated with or suspected from Trichloroethylene exposure. How many colleagues do we know who have died or are affected by some of the following?

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Lung Tumours
  • Liver Tumours
  • Kidney Tumours
  • Testicular Tumors
  • Irritation of eyes, skin;
  • Headache
  • Visual disturbance
  • Lassitude (weakness, exhaustion)
  • Dizziness
  • Tremor
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dermatitis
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Paresthesia
  • Liver injury
  • Male reproductive toxin
  • Developmental effects
  • Increase in miscarriages
  • Congenital heart disease in children
  • Increased histamine release & inflammatory cytokine production from antigen-stimulated mast cells

EPA: Carcinogenic to humans, IARC: Carcinogenic to humans (evidence for cancer is based on kidney cancer, limited evidence for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer, as well as, various tumors in animals). NTP: Known to be a Human Carcinogen.

Trichloroethylene also goes by the synonyms below as well as a large number of trade names.

  • Ethinyl Trichloride
  • Trichloride, Ethinyl
  • Trichloroethene (not to be confused with Trichloroethane)
  • Trielina
  • Trilene

The University of Limerick failed to inform students of Baldonnel chemical fears

The University of Limerick failed to pass on health concerns about the Air Corps hangars to its work placement students, despite several warnings over chemical exposure fears.

Irish Air Corps Non Destructive Testing (NTD) Workshop

Although it was told that students “may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and organic solvents during the course of their work placement”, UL did not follow up on requests to inform the relevant students.

The warnings came over six months before the Health and Safety Authority issued a damning report on the Air Corps’ management of harmful chemicals at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 05/04/17 – Irish Army Air Corps – Main Technical Stores Air Quality Test Reports

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will provide a copy of the results of the air-quality test that was carried out in the Main Technical Stores, Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel and adjoining office complex on the 9 February 2017 by an external assessor. [16892/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

The Occupational Air Survey Report referred to by the Deputy was forwarded to the Military Authorities on 28th March 2017 by the external assessor.

The monitoring found that none of the areas tested exceeded the Occupational Exposure Limits outlined in the 2016 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare (Chemical Agents) Regulations, 2001.

In line with the recommendations of the report, I am informed by the Military Authorities that;

1. All personnel working in the Technical Stores building were paraded and informed of the content of the report and its findings.

2. The report is currently available for viewing by all personnel at the Air Corps Health and Safety Office.

3. In due course the report will be published on the Defence Forces Intranet site.

It is good news that none of the tested areas of Main Technical Stores at Baldonnel have exceeded the Occupational Exposure Limits outlined in the 2016 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare (Chemical Agents) Regulations, 2001.

It is disappointing however that Minister Paul Kehoe has not shared any details for the Air Quality report including the exact locations tested nor the actual results.

If there is nothing to hide, please publish the report in full on the Department of Defence website.

The Athlete I Married – Another human cost of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Health & Safety scandal

My husband joined the Irish Army Air Corps as an apprentice in 1991, he was 17 years old. He was so young in fact he was legally classed as a child soldier which required his parents to sign away their legal guardianship to the Minister for Defence. Prior to joining the Air Corps he was one of Donegal’s top junior athletes.

I met him in 1992 while he was still living in in the apprentice hostel accommodation at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. At that stage he had already represented the Air Corps at athletics and was a regular member of their winning Business House League cross country team. At 18 years of he was running a 10k in 31 minutes and a 5k in 15 minutes. He was full of life and I remember meeting this force of energy. He was very funny and had more energy than I thought possible in one individual. Fast forward to 2017 and now aged 43 he can now only manage a 5k in his mobility scooter.

A year after I met him he graduated from the Air Corps Apprentice School and moved “up camp” to Avionics Squadron where within a few short months he became very emotional and started to suffer from extreme anxiety. He went, in a short space of time, from being a huge force of energy to an unpredictable troubled man and that is how he has remained.

Through 20 years of marriage and 24 of the 25 years that I have known and loved him I still feel lucky enough that he hasn’t lost all of his love of life. But although he is losing more of his physical ability each day he still manages a smile and he still loves me and the children. He still wants to be energetic for me and his family but as his list of medical problems get progressively worse his driving force gets more and more depleted.

24 years ago his medical problems started with anxiety & stress then a sudden loss of all pigmentation in his right leg & groin area where all the hair went white and all his skin pale after a tubbing incident with an unknown chemical. There is still a visible line with two different skin tones each side. Later followed stomach ulcers and Crohn’s like bowel problems which are a constant source of embarrassment.

Next started the nerve damage, pins & needles, loss of sense of touch in arms & legs and eventually sudden excruciating pain in random parts of the body as bad as a toothache but 1,000 times worse.

Then came the “in your head” diagnosis. The vast majority of Irish doctors & consultants simply have no experience of industrial diseases but they all have a deep need to “pigeonhole” and move on. As my husband got progressively worse his GP was convinced that he was simply malingering and suggested that he see a psychiatrist.

After suffering at the mercy of an unsympathetic Irish medical establishment for many years he finally discovered a specialist in Scandinavia who invited him over for tests. He has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Chronic Solvent Induced Encephalopathy. Stage 3 is the top of a 1 to 3 scale and means that damage has reached as far as his internal organs.

He has suffered Thermoregulation Vasoconstrictor failure, this means his body cannot control his body temperature, he sweats when he is cold, shivers when he is hot and every step in between.

And it goes on, he has suffered Cardioaccelerator failure of his heart. This means that his body cannot increase his heart rate when needed, so his heart constantly pumps at a slow rate meaning even climbing a stairs is like climbing Mount Everest to him. If his heart rate cannot speed up it cannot pump enough oxygen around his body causing huge fatigue. Staying with his heart he has also suffered Cardiodepressor function failure which results in complicated blood pressure problem. He also suffers Baroreflex Hypersensitivity.

These genuinely are only a fraction of the abnormal tests results, in fact we cannot understand many of the results as they are so technical but they prove why my husband is so weak & tired all the time.

This consultant Neurophysiologist confirmed that due to the litany of autonomic nerve damage there are only a few chemicals in use that can cause such damage. But one thing is certain, all of the chemicals that are capable of causing the injuries my husband suffers from were used in the Irish Army Air Corps with utter disregard to any chemical health & safety.

It is further shocking to learn that the failures of health & safety in the Air Corps that were present and known about in the 1990s, are only now being remedied in 2017. This took several protected disclosures to the Minister for Defence, the Chief of Staff and the Health & Safety Authority.

My husband held the Irish Defence Forces fitness test 2 mile run record for 15 years. It was 9 minutes 6 seconds and was only beaten about 6 years ago by another proud Donegal man. Today even his top of the range mobility scooter cannot beat that time.

Does anyone know what it feels like to watch the man you love go through all of this suffering & pain and to then watch the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe say in Dáil Éireann that the Irish Air Corps has a very high standard of health & safety?

It is like listening to a rapist defending himself in court by saying that he did what he did out of love…