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.
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
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
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
The level of dichloromethane found in ambient air in the engine cleaning area exceeded health and safety limits.
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.
Significant levels of all parameters monitored were found in nearly all ambient air samples taken in the engine cleaning area.
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…
LEFT personnel of all ranks and none to rot in this exceptionally toxic working environment for a further 12 years.
IGNORED the recommendation to design and install design a proper ventilation system, (they stuck in 2 x Xpelairs).
NEVER re-tested the environment to see if the Xpelair fans worked, we suspect they made things worse by increasing evaporation rate.
NEVER informed personnel of enlisted ranks that their workplace was contaminated to dangerous levels.
The Government says the Defence Forces have no intention of investigating how health and safety reports at the centre of an alleged ‘cover up’ within the Air Corps have gone missing.
The State is facing at least six lawsuits from former Air Corps technicians who suffer chronic illnesses that they say were caused by their working environment at Casement Aerodrome.
All six have seen a toxico-pathologist who has given his medical opinion that their illnesses — including cancer, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and memory loss — were caused by their exposure to harmful chemicals.
Last week the Irish Examiner revealed that health and safety reports arising from inspections of Casement Aerodrome in the 1990s — a period during which the six worked for the Air Corps —cannot be found by military authorities.
Sinn Féin defence spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has told the Dáil that he has seen the reports in question, and that they are critical of health and safety management at Casement Aerodrome at the time.
Mr Ó Snodaigh has questioned whether the disappearance of the documents is part of a cover-up to disguise the fact that the Defence Forces did not follow up on the inspections recommendations.
However, despite confirming that the inspections in question took place, and that the reports arising from these probes cannot be located, Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has said there are no plans to look into how or why the documents went missing.
Health and safety issues in the Air Corps have not gone away. Why is an investigation not underway, Joe Leogue wants to know
Revelations that the Air Corps has doubts over its own health and safety management raises further questions about the State’s treatment of former members who now suffer a litany of illnesses that they claim came as a result of their exposure to toxic chemicals.
Today’s Irish Examiner reveals that an internal Air Corps report from 2014 cast doubt over whether adequate protection was given to technicians who would have worked with cancer-causing solvents on a daily basis. It also states that staff could have ingested the airborne chemical because their tea room was in an adjacent room, and that their clothes could have been contaminated due to their lockers being in the room where the chemical was used.
The Air Corps could not find any records stating its staff had received any training on the dangers of the chemicals they were tasked with using.
The details of this report come a week after this newspaper revealed that the Government “cannot locate” documents that opposition TDs say show that health and safety concerns were raised more than 20 years ago.
The 2014 report’s admissions make the State’s refusal to investigate potential links between the workers’ illnesses and their exposure more inexplicable.
It also calls into question the State’s decision to drag claims made by former staff through the courts.
A 2014 internal Air Corps report into staff exposure to a cancer-causing cleaning agent over a 27-year period has cast doubt on whether the force did all in its power to protect workers’ health.
The document states it is possible staff may have ingested the chemical and suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.
The time under review in the report — 1980 to 2007 — coincides with the period during which a number of Air Corps staff who are suing the State would have worked at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
It is understood the document was prepared for the State Claims Agency, who is defending the case in the High Court.
The report, seen by the Irish Examiner, investigates the working environment in a since-demolished engine workshop building and was published over two-and-a-half years before the Health and Safety Authority raised a number of concerns about conditions in Baldonnel.
In its summary on precautions taken with the Triklone N solvent, the report issued by the Air Corps’ Formation Safety Office asks “can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”.
Triklone N contains trichloroethylene, a known carcinogen, and is a vapour degreaser that was used to clean engine parts. The report stated that:
No records show that personal protective equipment (PPE) was made available to staff.
No records exist suggesting that any training on the dangers of using Triklone N took place.
Work areas were not segregated and doors to adjoining areas were left open.
Workers’ tea room and meeting area were located in an adjoining area, raising the risk of food being contaminated.
Workers clothes could have been contaminated as personnel lockers were located in the immediate area where the chemical was used.
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.
Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to establish healthcare screening for members of the Defence Forces, as well as a health package for those who have suffered illnesses as a result of their exposures while working for the State.
The demand comes as it was confirmed Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has written to Sinn Féin to confirm that military authorities cannot find inspection reports from the 1990s that raised concerns about the working environment at the Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome.
The confirmation came following attempts by this newspaper to have the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The State is defending itself in a number of legal actions brought against it by Air Corps staff who say they are suffering illnesses as a result of their exposure to chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.
Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers was critical of the Government’s approach to the matter.
“It is quite astonishing that the Department of Defence cannot locate these reports given I and others have seen copies of same,” Ms Chambers said.
“Simply saying they cannot be located is not good enough, there needs to be some explanation provided as to how these reports could have conveniently disappeared, given they point to serious health and safety issues at Casement Aerodrome dating back to the early 90s.
At least six people are taking action against the State for alleged exposure to chemicals whilst in the Air Corps.
Reports detailing the levels of toxicity in the air at Baldonnel Airfield have disappeared, The Journal.ie can reveal.
A letter seen by this publication, which was sent to a TD, says two reports into the measurement of potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and other airborne toxins cannot be located by the Defence Forces.
The letter from Paul Kehoe, Minister of State with responsibility for Defence, reads:
“I have now been advised by the military that there was a report on measuring CO (Carbon Monoxide) fumes from aircraft compiled by Forbairt [which later became Enterprise Ireland] in 1995 and a further report on monitoring air contaminants in workshops in 1997 which was also compiled by Forbairt.
“In addition, an internal report was compiled by the Air Corps in 2014 in relation to a litigation case and in 2017, an occupational air survey was carried out by an independent environmental services company.
“Unfortunately, following an extensive search and their having consulted with Enterprise Ireland (which superseded Forbairt), I am advised by the military authorities that it has not been possible to locate the earlier Forbairt reports.”
Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has met an Air Corps whistle-blower and saw copies of inspection reports that have raised concerns about conditions in Casement Aerodrome dating back to the 1990s.
Click on above photo to learn about the chemicals therein
The Irish Examiner understands one of four Air Corps whistle-blowers met with Mr Kehoe last week, and showed him copies of documents that have prompted allegations in the Dáil of a ‘cover up’ in the force.
This newspaper revealed yesterday that the Department of Defence refused a Freedom of Information request from the Irish Examiner for the release of the reports on the grounds that it “cannot locate” the documents sought.
Opposition TDs, who also saw the documents, say they raised concerns about Air Corps members’ exposure to toxic chemicals over 20 years ago. The State is defending High Court cases taken by former Air Corps staff who say that they suffer chronic illnesses as a result of working conditions in Casement Aerodrome.
Last October, the Health and Safety Authority threatened the Air Corps with legal action unless it addressed shortcomings that the HSA had identified.
Whistle blowers had previously warned the Government of the dangers. Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh previously told the Dáil that the reports have been covered-up because of the failure of the Defence Forces to implement the changes that were recommended.
Yesterday he said that both Mr Kehoe and the Department of Defence need to explain why the documents cannot be located.
The Department of Defence said it cannot locate copies of technical reports from the 1990s which raise concerns about health and safety conditions at the Air Corps headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.
It comes after opposition TDs made claims of a “cover-up” and suggested the files may have been destroyed.
The Irish Examiner, in January last, revealed the State is being sued by six former Air Corps staff who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while working at Casement Aerodrome.
We also reported how, last October, the Health and Safety Authority issued a warning to the Air Corps over its management of staff exposure and wellbeing, following protected disclosures from three whistleblowers.
Sinn Féin defence spokesman Aengus Ó Snodaigh told the Dáil, in February, he had “seen health and safety reports going back as far as 1995, all of which pointed specifically to the issues that were addressed in the Examiner newspaper”.
“So this is not a new issue,” he stated at the time.
“This is a cover-up because the military authorities in Casement Aerodrome did not take the required steps; when it was highlighted to them that dangerous chemicals existed, they didn’t take those steps.”
Two of the men who are trying to take cases against the Air Corps over claims they were exposed to dangerous chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield say they have contracted cancer since starting the litigation.
The men, who have been attempting to have their case heard since 2013, are just two of six people who have cases which are currently at the ‘discovery’ phase.
One of the men was diagnosed with skin cancer last week. He says he has it in three places on his body – his head, arms and leg.
The other man says he was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2015. A tumour was discovered on his kidney after several visits to his doctor.
The men have maintained that their exposure to a number of chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield has led to them suffering from serious illnesses.