Navy (New Zealand) veteran’s landmark compensation deal has others with Parkinson’s fearing trichloroethylene

Hundreds of New Zealanders may have been affected by a toxic chemical in a wide range of workplaces, a Weekend Herald investigation has found.

The discovery follows a landmark compensation pay-out to a New Zealand navy veteran who proved links between exposure to the solvent during his military service and his Parkinson’s disease.

The Herald reported last month that Veterans Affairs has provided the ex-serviceman with an entitlement to disability compensation for Parkinson’s, a condition attributed to his exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) while degreasing and cleaning electronics on a Royal New Zealand Navy ship during the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency.

The Weekend Herald has since tracked down other men who fear their handling of TCE in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s could have caused their debilitating diseases and who now want to pursue their own compensation cases.

A former New Zealand Post Office telephone exchange technician, a naval dockyards apprentice and an aircraft engineer have all spoken about using TCE in their workplaces for years, without any health and safety precautions.

None of them used gloves or breathing apparatus while being exposed to the potent halocarbon that was popular across an array of sectors and workplaces in New Zealand, including garages, railway and aircraft workshops, and other depots.

“Trichlo was strong enough to bowl you over,” said 65-year-old Steve Walker, an ex-New Zealand Post Office employee at the Balclutha exchange, who now struggles with Parkinson’s. “It seeped into your skin, into your clothes. It took over you completely.”

Dave Schafer, a 58-year-old who used TCE weekly while cleaning instruments on Navy frigates during a five-year apprenticeship at the Devonport naval base, said: “Holy cow, that stuff was powerful. But as apprentices you kept your mouth shut and did your job, you didn’t rock the boat.”

Parkinson’s New Zealand, the Returned and Services’ Association (RSA), and those spoken to by the Weekend Herald, all believe there will be many more New Zealanders – hundreds if not thousands – who have been exposed to TCE over the years.

“Researchers have suggested there could be a significant lag time between exposure to TCE and the onset of Parkinson’s,” said Parkinson’s New Zealand chief executive Deirdre O’Sullivan.

“As such, we have reason to believe there could be many more serving and/or ex-serving NZDF people in a similar situation to this veteran.”

The potentially precedent-setting Navy veteran’s decision was made on appeal to the independent Veterans’ Entitlements Appeal Board, which considered appeals against decisions made under the War Pensions Act 1954.

It was made possible by ground-breaking international research including a major 2011 study on TCE exposure that concluded it was likely to result in a sixfold increase in the chances of developing Parkinson’s.

Read more on the New Zealand Herald’s website

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Interesting that the New Zealand Herald article discusses exposure in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. No mention of the 1990s onwards obviously because the industries there using the chemical copped on in the 1990’s.

Unfortunately the Irish Air Corps was still exposing personnel to Trike, (without protection) in ERF / Avionics in the 1990s and well into the first decade of this century and likely elsewhere in Baldonnel & Gormanston

DELAY – DENY – DIE

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.

Pressure for health study of Air Corps workers

The Government is facing pressure to commission a wide-ranging health study on former Air Corps staff to establish if their working conditions contributed to significant ill-health in some members.

The call for a health study, similar to one established in Australia to examine the correlation between illnesses in its air force and their members’ use of chemicals, comes following months of revelations in the Irish Examiner.

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 40s and 50s, 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 on the Irish Examiner website


Despite the Ardrox 666 (Dichloromethane, Cresylic Acid & Sodium Chromate) dripping down the wall from the extractor fan and Ardrox 1074 (containing Hydrofluoric Acid) dissolving the small barrel in the photo above, the State Claims Agency & Air Corps still maintain we “were not exposed to toxic chemicals”.

The Air Corps have also appealed a high court judgement, directing them to tell survivors the list of chemicals to which they were exposed, to the Court of Appeal.

Calls for probe into Defence Forces inspection records

The Government is coming under increased pressure to launch an investigation into missing Defence Forces inspection reports which were allegedly destroyed.

he calls for an independent probe follow reports in the Irish Examiner which revealed that junior defence minister Paul Kehoe has ruled out any investigation into the disappearance of health and safety reports from the air corps, despite being told by a whistle-blower the documents were deliberately shredded.

The State is being sued by six former air corps members who claim their chronic illnesses were caused by their exposure to toxic chemicals while working as technicians in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell.

The missing safety reports date back to the 1990s when all six allegedly injured air corps members worked in Baldonnel.

Despite both the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence saying the reports cannot be found, opposition politicians claim to have had sight of the documents and say that they raise concerns as to the management of the working environment in Casement Aerodrome.

Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that, in April, Mr Kehoe received a protected disclosure alleging that a named official ordered the shredding of the documents.

Despite this, Mr Kehoe last week told Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh that he could only offer “speculative” reasons as to why the reports are missing and ruled out an inquiry into their disappearance.

Responding to this newspaper’s report yesterday, Fianna Fáil defence spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said allegations the reports were deliberately destroyed in order to cover up knowledge of health and safety concerns were “extremely serious”.

“The suggestion from the minister that the reports in question, which are from different inspection periods and from different reporting years, have vanished and that this is somehow due to change over to an electronic system or documents were misplaced over time is difficult to believe,” she said.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website

State accused of shredding documents now central to legal case

A Defence Forces whistle-blower has alleged that a named official ordered the shredding of documents that are now central to a legal case against the State.

Despite the claim, junior defence minister Paul Kehoe says he has no plans to investigate how documents went missing, despite only being able to offer “speculative” reasons for their disappearance.

Six former members of the Air Corps have taken High Court action against the State, claiming it failed in its duty of care to protect them from the harmful effect of the toxic chemicals they used on a daily basis while working in maintenance at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Co Dublin.

All six now suffer chronic illnesses, and a toxico-pathologist has given his medical opinion that these conditions were developed as a result of their exposure to these chemicals.

The Irish Examiner understands that further cases will be brought against the State, which has denied liability in all six instances to date.

Central to all the claims is the question of whether the State took all reasonable steps possible to protect the workers. However, health and safety inspection reports published in the 1990s — at a time when all six of the claimants worked in Casement Aerodrome — have gone missing.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website