Air Corps failed to comply with Supreme Court order in chemicals exposure case

Former aircraft mechanic Gavin Tobin alleges exposure to dangerous chemicals led to severe health issues

The Air Corps has failed to comply with a Supreme Court order to hand over safety documents to a former aircraft technician suing over his exposure to dangerous chemicals, a judge has ruled.

Gavin Tobin is one of about 11 former Air Corps members who allege continuous exposure to chemicals used in the maintenance of aircraft has led to severe health issues. His case, which was lodged in 2014, has been referred to as test case for the others.

Mr Tobin joined the Air Corps in 1989 as an apprentice aircraft mechanic and was based in Baldonnell until leaving service in 1999. He claims during his service he was exposed to dangerous chemicals on an ongoing basis which resulted in severe personal injury.

Mr Tobin alleges that his employers “failed to provide him with a safe place of work, a safe system of work, safe and proper equipment, appropriate training, and safe and competent co-workers.”

Last month’s ruling by Mr Justice Mark Heslin is the latest is a long-running legal battle over what documents the Air Corps is required to hand over to Mr Tobin as part of discovery in advance of a full civil trial.

The Air Corps was originally ordered by the High Court to make full discovery relating to the chemicals to which Mr Tobin was exposed during this time in the maintenance section. This was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court later confirmed the original order requiring broad-ranging disclosure.

Mr Tobin then received a substantial amount of documents, numbering over 1,200 pages. However these did not include some potentially important files, including safety certificates for the chemicals used by the Air Corps.

The Air Corps claimed it could not hand over the documents as they had been lost or destroyed in the intervening years. It also claimed it is under no obligation to seek replacements for these documents from the chemicals’ manufacturers.

Mr Justice Heslin ruled that this was an unreasonable position and that the Air Corps has failed to make proper discovery of documents.

Read full article by Conor Gallagher the Irish Times website…


Dáil Éireann – 2nd March 2023 – Public Accounts Committee – Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure (Transcript)

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

I have one area I wish to pursue. I do not know if this falls into potential liabilities. I have raised this before with the SCA regarding Casement Aerodrome. I have a list of premature deaths of people of pre-retirement age. Since 2019, we have seen deaths of people aged 56, 51, 63, 55, 27, 55, 55, 62, 63, 55, 51 and 38. I can go back to 1981 in terms of the age profile. Given this is not a gigantic employer, it is a stand-out in terms of premature deaths and certainly raises a significant question mark in this regard for me and for others. The SCA went in and carried out a safety management systems audit in 2010. Have such audits been repeated? Is the SCA dealing with active claims now concerning Casement Aerodrome?

Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency

When the Deputy refers to Casement Aerodrome, I presume she is referring to the cases in the workshop. I say this because we have other claims from Casement Aerodrome.

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee


Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency

We have roughly about ten cases outstanding relating to the workshop there. These are all cases where proceedings have been issued. Liability is an issue in those cases. When I say it is an issue in these cases, we are currently going through all our investigations. There is some outstanding information that we require in the context of the management of those cases, which is a normal part of the investigation of those cases. I am, therefore, very limited in what I can say to the Deputy about them.

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

Regarding preventative actions, I presume the SCA continues to carry out audits. Has it carried out more audits than the audit carried out in 2010?

Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency

I am sure we have. I am sorry I do not have that information for the Deputy today.

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

Mr. Breen might come back to us with it.

Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency


Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

Along with those cases where I listed the ages of death regarding particular individuals since 2019, and I appreciate this is across the spectrum but equally this is not a gigantic employer, there are also others living with conditions. There is again a profile here in this regard and a similarity regarding the conditions. I presume this is part of the active cases.

Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency

It most certainly is.

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

The SCA reckons there are about ten cases at this stage.

Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency

I think it is ten.

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

I understand these are active cases, but when was the first one initiated? Would Mr. Breen at least be able to give us a timeline?

Mr. Ciarán Breen – State Claims Agency

I will have to come back to the committee on this point.

Catherine Murphy T.D. (Kildare North) Public Accounts Committee

Okay. I would appreciate it if Mr. Breen would do that because this is an issue that is on my desk constantly. I know more than a couple of the people involved. This is a stand-out situation and I think some of these things are going to be quite unusual in terms of workplace issues. This was my main point.


Again a representatives of the State Claim Agency attempts to narrow down the Air Corps toxic chemical exposure problems to the a single location that he refers to as “the workshop”.

For the avoidance of doubt below are the locations (old names) at the Irish Air Corps where personnel were exposed to toxic chemicals on a regular basis without any chemical awareness training, without chemical handling training and in most cases without any PPE.

  • Air Support Company Signals – Workshops & Battery Shop
  • Avionics Squadron – Electrical Shop / Instrument Shop / Systems Shop
  • Basic Flight Training Squadron – Hangar & IRANs in Eng Wing.
  • Control Tower – Due to proximity to aircraft exhaust gasses
  • Cookhouse – Trichloroethylene used weekly to degrease the floors
  • Engine Repair Flight – Engine Shop / NDT Shop / Machine Shop
  • Engineering Wing Hangar – Carpentry Shop / Spray Paint Shop / Hydraulic Shop / Sheet Metal Shop / Welding Shop 
  • Fire Crew – Due to proximity to aircraft exhaust gasses
  • Gormanston
  • No 3 Support (Helicopter) Wing
  • Light Strike Squadron
  • Main Technical Stores – Built on a former Toxic Dump
  • Maritime Squadron
  • Parachute Shop
  • Photo Section – Affecting Main Block & Signals Workshops
  • Refueler Section
  • Training Depot
  • Transport & Training Squadron
  • Transport
  • VIP Terminal – Due to proximity to aircraft exhaust gasses

Delay – Deny – Die

Dead servicemen walking – The Human Impact of the RAAF Deseal / Reseal Scandal

This article was originally published by Armed Services magazine in Australia and we believe it dates from 2005. The article was written by Paul Daley and photos are by Richard Whitfield.

Forced to crawl inside F-111s through toxic sludge and fumes, these men are now doomed to a living death while Canberra looks the other way.

Allan Henry mows the lawn and washes up. On a bad day, the dishes can take an hour-and-a-half. He gets breathless, his body aches and the exertion of merely shifting them from suds to dish rack impels him to stop, exhausted, to rest. The back lawn of his Brisbane home can take two days to mow. He needs three to recover.

These prosaic tasks are all that link the husk of Allan Henry to the man he was in 1981: an optimistic young father with a promising career as an electrician in the Royal Australian Air Force. He insists on mowing and washing-up as if they were the last threads of his humanity, just as he clings to the mundane routine of daytime snoozes, endless doctors’ appointments and pottering around that form his twilight existence.

Allan Henry is 46. His wife says he looks 65. It breaks her heart. “Our plan was that we’d still be enjoying ourselves in middle age. The kids would be gone and we could travel. Tomorrow’s our 25th wedding anniversary. But there’s no party – he can’t go to parties any more,” says Kathleen Henry, a slim, tanned, intelligent woman who comes from generations of RAAF stock.

“We know they are all dead men walking. It’s a reality we all have to face and come to terms with. I know it sounds hard and callous. But it’s true. They are dead men walking.”

Allan Henry is slowly, prematurely, painfully fading away because the air force that he loved poisoned him.

It exposed him to a multitude of highly toxic chemicals that were used to clean and re-seal the faulty fuel tanks of Australia’s fleet of F-111 strike-bombers from 1973 until 2000. Since 1981, when he began experiencing mood swings, depression and crippling headaches while working on the planes, Henry’s health has steadily declined. He’s had dozens of carcinomas removed, his joints have seized, his respiratory and immune systems are shot and for 14 years he suffered weeping lesions all over his body. In 1999, the doctors told Kathleen and their three children, Allan wouldn’t survive the year.

Alan Henry passed away in 2008 aged 49.

But on he fights – as one of at least 400, but by some estimates as many as 800, seriously ill victims of a scandal that resulted from a mind-boggling, negligent and deadly failure in the RAAF’s chain of command. It is clear that RAAF commanders at Amberley Air Force base near Ipswich, west of Brisbane, where the F-111s are based, didn’t just allow two generations of technicians to work with chemicals they knew to be potentially deadly. They made them. Their health, it seems, was a small price to pay to keep the F-111s airborne.

Countless former servicemen who worked on the de-seal/re-seal (DSRS) program at Ambcrlcy have died of dreadful diseases. Some have taken their own lives. Other seriously brain-damaged men, lost inside the Kafkaesque maze that is Australia’s military compensation system, are frustrated to the point of suicide.

This tragedy is compounded by the victims’ ages: many are in their 30s, 40s and early 50s – people whose best years have been stolen just when they should be enjoying the rewards of middle age. Instead, they are living agonising, confused and uncertain final years and months.

A July 2001 military Board of Inquiry found the RAAF command at Amberley culpably failed to protect its personnel due to a chain of command malfunction. In layman’s terms, this means no superior officer put the health of his men ahead of the aircraft until late 1999, when a new sergeant complained. De-seal operations were immediately suspended.

At a time when a federal parliamentary committee is abot1t to report on failures in the military justice system, the episode stands as a shocking indictment of a “group think” culture that pervades sections of the military and allows such unjust – even, arguably, criminal – practices to continue unchecked. No senior RAAF personnel have ever been punished. The committee has given no in-depth consideration to the episode.

The 2001 military inquiry found “…the scale and duration of the problem indicates that we are dealing with a deep-seated failure for which no single individual or group of individuals can reasonably be held accountable”. Meanwhile, a health study concluded the de-sealers were 50% more likely to develop cancers than other military personnel and that many suffered from depression, erectile dysfunction, skin and respiratory diseases, cardiovascular and neurological disease, mood swings and memory problems.

Anecdotally, an inordinate number of de-sealers’ wives have miscarried or given birth to children with abnormalities. Many of their children are now experiencing reproductive problems. Many have failed to eke out any sort of living since being medically discharged. Hundreds of marriages have failed. Domestic violence is rife.

Military aircraft technicians are drawn from the top 5% to 10% of society’s IQ pool. It is compelling, then, that the University of Newcastle health study concluded the de-sealers today live among the 30% of society with the poorest lifestyle and health.

This is a dark, disturbing story with no prospect of a happy ending. Its central characters will never recover. Not even the swift delivery of compensation – as promised by the federal government – could change that.

This story’s only light comes through the window it opens onto a human spirit that compels these desperate people to keep fighting the system they so unquestioningly, so patriotically served.

It is a harrowing experience to sit with two desperately ill mates, both fathers in early middle age, while they blithely discuss suicide as if it were merely another medical treatment open to them.

Frank Cooper, 47, has the delivery, timing and presence of a stand-up comic. When you shake his knobbly hand, contorted by arthritis and punctuated by the space formerly inhabited by the amputated finger, you realise everything’s wrong. He’s edgy and anxious; like most former de-sealers, he suffers terrifying panic attacks, though they are the least of his medical problems. He is eager to launch into his story. For who knows? Tomorrow he mightn’t remember it.

But he defers to the younger, more obviously ill man, 46-year-old Rob Solomons. Solomons has gone irreversibly to seed. Of course, it’s impossible to stay fit when you’ve got chemically induced dementia and you’re debilitated by migraines and blackouts, depression, nerve damage in your feet and hands, chronically high blood pressure, bowel and digestive diseases and respiratory problems. His marriage has failed.

On top of all that, there’s the final indignity: the lingering emotional insecurity born of having been unable to get it up for years.

But Frank is a mate. So he can hang shit on Rob. He does so mercilessly and, as they sit in Rob’s living room in Donnybrook on the coast north of Brisbane, they bounce off one another like some dark version of The Two Ronnies.

“He can’t remember what fuckin’ day it is,” Frank says, gesturing to Rob. “Ask him if he wants a cup of tea… he’ll go and make one, forget he’s done it and five minutes later make another one. There’ll be three cups of tea sitting there and he’ll go and make another one. You should go for a drive with him… I mean, no fuckin’ way – you wouldn’t get in a car with the bastard.”

Both men laugh hysterically. There’s no pretence. Just the gallows humour of the condemned.

The mood quickly segues from black comedy to tragedy.

“Go on,” Frank urges, “tell him about what we were discussing just before he arrived.”

“What?” stammers Rob. “Sss-suicide, do you mean?”

“Yeah – suicide,” says Frank.

“Yeah, mate, yeah … suicide,” says Rob, twitching as he turns to address me.

“We’ve both been there so often it’s not funny. You feel so shithouse all the time, and you can’t remember anything so you let people down constantly. Then there’s the mmm-mood swings, so you’re bloody impossible to live with. And then there’s just this constant fight for the compensation and money worries that just wears you down further and further. The frustration and stress is huge. I can tell you, the only reason I’m alive today is because I live with a 12-year-old bbbbb-boy [his son, with whom he lives alone] who supports me so wonderfully. He walks over and gives me a big hug and says, ‘Dad, are you gonna be OK”?’. What do I say? I know I won’t be.”

It’s his son’s 13th birthday today. Rob would have forgotten. Except his Palm Pilot reminded him with the message: GET UP – IT’S NICK’S BIRTHDAY. TRY AND BE HAPPY. He tries hard to !Je a good dad. He feels guilty because there’s so much he can’t do.

Frank. now three years into his third marriage, has two kids. He’s only just hung onto this wife who, like the partners of most former de-sealers, hates his pain and finds him cantankerous and unpredictable, but mostly sad.

“A week after the honeymoon for my third marriage, ,we came back from Perth and straight away I had a complete breakdown because I was so stressed that I’d lose her, too… how do you think that made her feel?”

He’s had a heart attack and suffers severe psoriasis that makes him shed layers of skin, snake-like, in the bed every night. Chronic spondylitis has resulted in five vertebrae being surgically fused, accounting for his hunched appearance; he’ll be in a wheelchair before long. He drives with a restricted licence and can’t move his head much. In 1988, he was diagnosed with chronic sarcoidosis, a rare’ asbestosis-like condition (common among former de-sealers) that causes fungus to grow in the lungs and robs the victim of breath. A typical week comprises visits to the hydrotherapist, the physiotherapist, the podiatrist, the dermatologist, the GP, the osteopath and the cardiologist. Work is unthinkable.

Like Rob, he has a small total and permanent disability pension and a medical Gold Card from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. But there is no formal acknowledgement that their ailments resulted from working on the de-seal program and both gave up trying to negotiate pension back pay when they became stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire. Neither has been compensated.

“I’ve got on the phone – we’ve all got on the phone – and said, ‘I’m going to top myself unless you sort this out’. But they don’t give a shit,” says Frank.

“I know I might have 10 years left. So it’s time the bastards stopped fucking us around – it’s just chewing up what precious time we’ve got left. [Defence Minister] Robert Hill made that statement last year – he said we’d be compensated. Well, where is it? Our lives are on bloody hold and the frustration and the stress is only making us worse – it’s killing us.”

Later, as Frank Cooper drives me to the train station, he says: “Mate, I’m really worried about Rob. He’s got no one, you know, to support him. No one.”

How did it come to this?

In 1963 the Menzies government ordered 24 General Dynamics F-111 long-range strike-bombers from the United States. Originally due for delivery in 1968, technical problems delayed their delivery until October 1973.

With their heavy payload of bombs and missiles, and their exceptional range – enabling them to fly to most Asian capitals and return to Australia without re-fuelling – they were intended as a deterrent to potentially hostile states in the region. The aircraft owes its range to its enormous fuel capacity. To this day the F-111 – which will be withdrawn from service in 2010 – is effectively a flying fuel tank. But it was defective from the start; the tanks were designed without an internal bladder and soon after delivery, avgas began leaking through the metal seams in the wings and the fuselage.

The same problem had happened in the US and the Americans had perfected a technique known as “deseal/re-seal”, whereby the original sealants were stripped through an elaborate process of chemical application, high-pressure blasting and hand picking with small, sharp instruments, before new, equally toxic, sealant was applied. A cocktail of dozens of toxic chemicals was also used. Perhaps the most infamous was SR51, a desealant and proven carcinogen. While some American service personnel worked on the F-111 tanks, the US military – perhaps sensing a future health scandal – mainly used labour from Latin America.

But for the Australians assigned to DSRS at Amberley, it was backbreaking, claustrophobic, physically and socially isolating, demoralising and potentially deadly work. For dozens of men and boys as young as 17, de-seal was their first posting after finishing apprenticeships in Wagga Wagga. “What was I going to say when they sent me to de-seal: ‘No, sir’?” says Frank Cooper. “Come on, I mean I was 17 years old.”

For months at a time they would work in a makeshift cloth hangar, segregated from the rest of the base due to the foul smell of the chemicals. The technicians would work crouched or lying horizontally in the tanks, covered in ct1emicals and surrounded by fumes, for up to eight hours at a time.

The SR51 corroded their protective gloves in minutes and ate away their flimsy cotton overalls. Cumbersome respiratory gear was rarely worn because it made crawling through the tanks near impossible.

The workers were ordered not to wear jockeys under their overalls because the chemicals would melt them. “So you were sitting there in cotton overalls and this stuff – SR51 and other chemicals – were soaking into your cock and balls through the flimsy overalls – no wonder we’ve got all these sexual problems,” says Rob Solomons.

“You’d lapse into unconsciousness, get dragged out of the tank, get left on the floor to sober up and put back in again.”

Those who complained were malingerers, slackers, even though many quickly developed severe health problems and were treated on the base and at the civilian hospital in nearby Ipswich. If the de-seal program was suspended due to health concerns, the F-111s – whose flight crews were largely oblivious to the suffering of the maintenance crews – wouldn’t fly. This was unthinkable, as the board of inquiry noted.

One de-sealer with serious health problems who refused to re-enter the tanks was sentenced to seven days’ detention. Another was given the particularly onerous task of incinerating the SR51 goop once it congealed. He was constantly covered in the stuff, suffered the pro-forma headaches, dizziness, mood swings and depression, and complained, to no avail.

Even on the base, the de-sealers were ostracised because of their smell. When the SR51 combined with body fat, it produced an odour likened to a mixture of old socks, rotten eggs, sweat, dirt and ammonia. The de-sealers were consequently banned from the base cinema, the mess and the boozer. The smell was impervious to showering. Wives and girlfriends slept in spare beds. Single men staying in barracks were given their own rooms.

All the while the de-sealers’ bodies tried to purge the poison by expelling a stinking yellow grease – a combination of body fat and noxious chemicals. The sludge permanently stained bed sheets and clothing.

“It’s a beautiful piece of machinery – I love the F1-11. It still gives me goose bumps when I hear the afterburners crack up for take-off. It’s a sound you can never get enough of.”

So says Geoff Curl who, at just 42, might pass for a man in his 50s. He’s yet another former de-sealer whose trashed health is the legacy of keeping the F-111 airborne. For more than 20 years he has suffered reflux, chronic bowel problems, arthritis, painful calcium deposits in his hands and shoulders, aching joints, agoraphobia, panic attacks, depression, dangerous mood swings and obsessive compulsive disorder. He has an obvious tremor.

The illnesses have, by his own admission, made him a nightmare to live with.

“I have been violent towards my wife and my kids,” he says. “I was also violent towards my first wife. I see red and I just snap. My wife is fantastic for what she puts up with. She deserves recognition.”

As part of his quest to get compensation, Curl saw numerous doctors at the behest of the military authorities. He maintains they were “doctor shopping” to find a diagnosis that would downplay his illnesses. While he receives a disability pension and his medical costs are covered by a Veteran’s Affairs Gold Card, he has received no compensation.

“The big fear that I have is that my life will be cut short…and [that] will leave my wife and children with very little. This is a real fear for me… I have watched friends of mine, also ex de-sealers, die at early ages of rapidly growing cancers,” he says.

“My quality of life has gone… it’s a life destroyed by the deliberate actions of RAAF officers who, with a blatant disregard for the life of the service personnel involved, chose to ignore all the warnings they had received about the chemicals we were using, and said, ‘Just do it’. Not one of them has apologised. Not one.”

Tony Brady began his apprenticeship two weeks after his 16th birthday. Soon “Mouse”, as he was known because of his tiny frame, was crawling inside the tanks. His size made him perfect for the job.

“I was used to access a lot of the smaller tanks and especially those that required moving past plumbing stilt in place; it often took over an hour of manoeuvring through the inside of the F-111 to access my work area, and longer to get out… I would be [so] stiff and swollen from being confined in such a small area for several hours that it made it difficult to work my way back out. We were required to have LFTs [liver function tests] every three months,” he says.

“One day, shortly after the blood tests, I got a call from medical section and they jokingly asked if I was glowing yellow… it turns out enzymes within my liver were more than 10 times their normal reading and I was taken out of de-seal immediately.”

Brady’s health is ruined. He is ·40. His second marriage recently failed. “My psychiatrists tell me that chemical poisoning has affected my mental health… I have panic disorder, I’m bipolar and suffer anxiety. Physically, my whole respiratory system is shot, I get bronchitis four or five times a year. I have chronic rhinitis and chronic allergic conjunctivitis, and I suffer from long-term infections due to my immune system not being able to handle things.” Brady, like the rest, awaits compensation.

Last year, Defence Minister Robert Hill promised the workers they would be compensated for their exposure to the chemicals – though not, it must be emphasised, for their immense pain and suffering or loss of earnings. The families of the dead stand to get nothing.

On October 26, Hill said he would take a submission to federal cabinet before Christmas recommending a single compensation scheme for the former de-sealers.

Hill said: “Obviously, at the time, the use of those solvents and other materials in those confined spaces was not understood to be dangerous in the way that it’s turned out to be. It’s something we clearly regret and we accept our responsibility to properly support and, where appropriate, compensate those who have suffered.”

For compensation specific to their injuries, the de-sealers must go through the courts (21 of them, including Cooper and Solomons, who are frustrated with waiting for military compensation or Hill’s ex-gratia payment, are suing the federal government, each for $800,000) or apply within the convoluted guidelines of several overlapping military compensation schemes.

There is further mounting anxiety among the former de-sealers that changes to the legislative definitions of impairment for lump-sum Commonwealth claimants injured before July 2004 will make it even harder for them to get compensation.

Under the changes, that which is currently defined as 10% impairment will be re-defined – or effectively downgraded – to a 5% impairment. Those who are not 10% incapacitated will be ineligible for compensation. They’ll also lose the right to sue their employers, even if the employer was negligent.

Ian Fraser, a former de-sealer with a range of serious health problems, now runs the F-111 De-seal Re-seal Support group with the help of Kathleen Henry and Liz Agerbeek, whose seriously ill husband Rudi also worked in the tanks. While they have energetically lobbied the federal government on behalf of the injured and have done much to keep the de-sealers in the pages of the local press in Queensland where most of them still live, Fraser is now calling for a royal commission into the military compensation system.

“OK, so we’ve had the board of inquiry which identified the problem, we’ve had the health study which showed we were injured by the chemicals, the government has promised us compensation, but we’re still waiting. They should be treating this as a humanitarian issue, not a political problem,” he says.

“Blokes are dying [the support group estimates 40 or 50 have died since the board of inquiry] while they wait for compensation and get shuffled from agency to agency and doctor to doctor.

“Enough is enough. We need a royal commission into the way these people have been treated before more are mistreated in the same way. Everyone’s had enough.”

“We need grief counselling because we know all these men are going to die,” Liz Agerbeek says matter-of-factly.

“It’s a mother-child relationship that’s developed between the wives and their men. It’s not healthy. All we do is care for them. We do not have normal healthy relationships… those planes have ruined our lives.

While Curtin University in Western Australia is conducting a lifestyle impact study on the partners of the de-sealers, no quantifiable research has been conducted into the health of their offspring. But anecdotal evidence (supported by postings on the support group’s website abounds that countless children of the F-111 workers were born with defects.

They include Allan and Kathleen Henry’s son Sean, who was conceived while his father worked in the tanks. He was born with respiratory and learning problems. He also suffers from a rare disease, osteo chrondoma, which causes tumours to grow from the bone.

“When he was a little boy, he effectively grew another bone out of his shoulder blade. He’s had five growths like this removed from his body. As a little boy, he used to ask us what was going on and we’d tell him he was growing spare parts,” Kathleen says.

Doctors give Sean a life expectancy of 30. He’s just turned 21 – a little younger than his father, Allan, when he first crawled into the bowels of an F-111. How cruel it is that the F-111 will be almost 50 when it’s eventually retired from service.


Delay – Deny – Die

100 Untimely* deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy!

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 100 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 87 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 62 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.

3 most significant causes of death

  • 41% of deaths are from cancer
  • 5% of deaths are specifically pancreatic  cancer
  • 29% of deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 6% of deaths are specifically cardiomyopathy related
  • 15% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 53 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

We are not stating that every single death is directly due to chemical exposure but many personnel who did not handle chemicals directly were unknowingly exposed due to close proximity to contaminated work locations.

Joe Duffy, Liveline & the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure Scandal

In 1990, RTE radio’s Gay Byrne & Joe Duffy paid a live visit to the Irish Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. Since the above photo was taken, 94 serving & former Air Corps personnel have suffered untimely* deaths, dying at an average age of 53 years.

Many more personnel along with their partners & children have suffered catastrophic physical & mental health issues due to decades of unprotected & unmitigated toxic chemical exposure including exposure to CMRs

Joe Duffy is now the host of Liveline but when Irish Air Corps survivors attempted to get on the show they were refused.

Uncritical Irish Air Corps PR pieces by RTE radio continue while RTE news ignores the toxic chemical exposure scandal that HSA inspectors described as “the worst case of chemical misuse in the history of the state”.


Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 99 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 86 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 61 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.

3 most significant causes of death

  • 42% of deaths are from cancer
  • 27% of deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 15% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 53 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

We are not stating that every single death is directly due to chemical exposure but many personnel who did not handle chemicals directly were unknowingly exposed due to close proximity to contaminated work locations.

Impact of Firefighting Aqueous Film-Forming Foams on Human Cell Proliferation and Cellular Mortality



Evaluate the toxic effects of Aqueous Film-Forming Foams used by firefighters for Class B fire suppression in human-derived kidney cells (HEK-293).


Three widely used AFFFs were collected from fire departments and were added to HEK-293 cells in various concentrations. Seventy-two hours post-treatment, cellular proliferation and toxicity were examined using commercially available kits.


All AFFFs evaluated induced cellular toxicity and significantly decreased cell proliferation, even when cells were treated with concentrations 10-fold lower than the working concentration used for fire suppression.


Despite the reduced usage of PFAS-containing AFFFs in the firefighter work environment, the evaluated AFFFs demonstrated significantly altered cellular proliferation, while also inducing toxicity, indicating the presence of toxic compounds. Both stronger implementation of PFAS-containing AFFFs restrictions and robust evaluation of fluorine-free and next-generation AFFFs are warranted.

In Brief

Firefighters are routinely exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through the use of Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFFs) for the suppression of Class B fire, which derive from flammable and combustible liquids, such as gasoline and alcohol. The addition of surfactants and PFAS in the AFFFs allows them to form an aqueous film that can extinguish the fire, while also coating the fuel. As such, AFFFs are often used for fire extinction in airports and military bases.

Exposure to PFAS in the general population may arise from ingestion of contaminated food or water, usage of consumer products containing PFAS, such as non-stick cookware or stain resistant carpets and textiles, and inhalation of PFAS-containing particulate matter. Detection of increased serum PFAS concentrations has been linked to an elevated risk for kidney cancer in humans, and firefighters are known to have increased serum concentrations of certain PFAS after attending training exercises. In the same study it was also observed that the average urinary excretions of 2-butoxyacetic acid (2-BAA) a surfactant often added in AFFFs exceeded the reference limit of the occupationally unexposed population, ranging from 0.5 to 1.4 mmol/mol creatinine.

Furthermore, an increased risk of mortality from kidney cancer has been observed in firefighters compared to the U.S. population. The detrimental health effects of PFAS are exacerbated by their increased half-lives in humans. A recently published study examined the half-lives of short- and long- chained PFAS in the serum of 26 airport employees and observed a wide range of half-lives which was dependent on the length and chemical structure of each substance that was examined. Indicatively, the shortest half-life was described for perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS), while the linear isomer of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) had the longest half-life (average of 44 days and 2.93 years, respectively), findings which are in agreement with other sources in the literature.

One aspect of this phenomenon could be attributed to renal reabsorption, as humans actively transport PFAS in the proximal tubules. A recently published scoping review of 74 epidemiologic, pharmacokinetic, and toxicological studies examined the relationship between PFAS exposure and kidney-related health outcomes. It was observed that exposure to PFAS was associated with lower kidney function, including chronic kidney disease (CKD), and histological abnormalities in the kidneys, as well as alterations in key mechanistic pathways, that can induce oxidative stress, and metabolic changes leading to kidney disease.

The alarming number of studies showcasing the harmful health effects pertaining to PFAS exposure has led to the banning of the production of AFFFs containing highly toxic, long chain PFAS, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) since 2015. However, this regulation is gradually being implemented across states and little is known about the toxicity of the next generation AFFFs. Based on the above, in the present study we evaluate cellular proliferation and toxicity in kidney-derived cells (HEK-293) that were exposed to three widely used AFFFs.

Read full study below


Organic solvents and Multiple Sclerosis susceptibility


Photo of dichloromethane (DCM) as stored by Irish Air Corps in 2015. DCM was banned in the EU in 2012.

We hypothesize that different sources of lung irritation may contribute to elicit an immune reaction in the lungs and subsequently lead to multiple sclerosis (MS) in people with a genetic susceptibility to the disease. We aimed to investigate the influence of exposure to organic solvents on MS risk, and a potential interaction between organic solvents and MS risk human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes.


Using a Swedish population-based case-control study (2,042 incident cases of MS and 2,947 controls), participants with different genotypes, smoking habits, and exposures to organic solvents were compared regarding occurrence of MS, by calculating odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals using logistic regression. A potential interaction between exposure to organic solvents and MS risk HLA genes was evaluated by calculating the attributable proportion due to interaction.


Overall, exposure to organic solvents increased the risk of MS (odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.2–1.8, p = 0.0004). Among both ever and never smokers, an interaction between organic solvents, carriage of HLA-DRB1*15, and absence of HLA-A*02 was observed with regard to MS risk, similar to the previously reported gene-environment interaction involving the same MS risk HLA genes and smoke exposure.


The mechanism linking both smoking and exposure to organic solvents to MS risk may involve lung inflammation with a proinflammatory profile. Their interaction with MS risk HLA genes argues for an action of these environmental factors on adaptive immunity, perhaps through activation of autoaggressive cells resident in the lungs subsequently attacking the CNS.

Read full study below


Anecdotal evidence has been emerging for some time of potential illness clusters at Casement Aerodrome to which Multiple Sclerosis has now been added. We are calling for these potential clusters to be investigated by competent authorities.

Suspected illness clusters currently include.

99 Untimely* deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 99 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 86 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 61 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.

3 most significant causes of death

  • 42% of deaths are from cancer
  • 27% of deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 15% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 53 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

We are not stating that every single death is directly due to chemical exposure but many personnel who did not handle chemicals directly were unknowingly exposed due to close proximity to contaminated work locations.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 5th April 2022 – Irish Air Corps surveillance of whistle-blowers

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)


To ask the Minister for Defence the number of serving and former Air Corps whistle-blowers who have been placed under surveillance by the State Claims Agency or its agents. [18187/22]


To ask the Minister for Defence the number of serving and former Air Corps whistle-blowers who have been placed under surveillance by the Defence Forces. [18185/22]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 435 and 444 together.

The conduct of surveillance activities by the Defence Forces is an operational security matter carried out in line with relevant national legislation. The relevant military authorities provide regular assessments, reports and briefings to me, as Minister for Defence, to the Secretary General of the Department of Defence and to the Chief of Staff. These assessments, by their nature, are confidential.

I am informed by the State Claims Agency that they do not comment on individual claims. The Agency’s statutory mandate is to manage claims in such a manner as to ensure that the State’s liability is contained at the lowest achievable level.



98 Untimely* deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 98 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 85 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 60 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
Either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.

3 most significant causes of death

  • 41% of deaths are from cancer
  • 28% of deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 15% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

*We record untimely as dying at or before age 66 (civilian pension age), average age of death is 53 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

We are not stating that every single death is directly due to chemical exposure but many personnel who did not handle chemicals directly were unknowingly exposed due to close proximity to contaminated work locations.