Death rate among former Irish Air Corps personnel needs to be examined, expert says

Whistleblowers blame premature deaths on exposure to toxic chemicals without PPE

The rate of deaths among former Air Corps personnel who have been exposed to dangerous chemicals needs to be examined by the Government, a leading public health expert has said.

Anthony Staines, who is professor of health systems at DCU, said the number of former personnel who have died prematurely appears to be higher than what would be expected for that population.

Protected disclosures about the exposure of aircraft technicians to dangerous chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield were first made to the Government in 2015.

One of the whistleblowers, former Air Corps technician Gavin Tobin, has been keeping track of serious illnesses and premature deaths in former colleagues which he believes may have been caused by exposure to these substances without personal protective equipment (PPE).

As of Friday he had recorded 96 premature deaths resulting from a variety of illnesses, including heart problems and rare forms of cancer. The average age of those who died is 52, he said.

Prof Staines told The Irish Times he has examined the figures provided by Mr Tobin and found them “surprising”.

He said the death rate is not particularly out of step with the general population but that “this is a group of people where the death rate should be low!”.

Read full article by Conor Gallagher the Irish Times website…

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Worker claims he was exposed to toxic chemicals while working on refurbishment at Intel plant

A man who has claimed he was exposed to a toxic and noxious chemical while working on a refurbishment job at the Intel Ireland plant has launched a High Court action.

Seven years after the alleged exposure the prognosis for 71-year-old John Matthews w,ho suffers from shortness of breath, is chronic, his counsel Barney Quirke SC told the court.

The claims relate to the refurbishment of a clean room where microchips are manufactured at the Leixlip, Co Kildare, plant and the pouring of a chemical sealant known as Penatron ASTC 3003c

The case is being regarded as a test case for as many as 10 other actions being taken in the High Court in relation to alleged exposure.

Opening the case, Mr Quirke SC, with Richard Lyons SC, said the alleged exposure has had a cruel effect on the life of father-of-four John Matthews and his retirement is completely altered from what he expected.

His client worked as a carpenter and was involved in what were called pop outs where the chemical Penatron was poured.

Mr Matthews, of Ardee Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, has sued his employer Ardmac Ltd with a registered office at Swords Business Campus, Balheary Road, Swords, Co Dublin, and Intel Ireland Ltd with registered offices at Simmonscourt House, Simmonscourt Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin. The refurbishments works on an Intel clean room were being carried out by Ardmac at the Leixlip plant.

Mr Matthews has claimed between June 2013 and October 2014 he was allegedly exposed to toxic and noxious chemicals including Penatron/ASTC 3003c while he was working at the plant.

He has also claimed a number of his co-employees were allegedly exposed to known carcinogens.

Read full article on the Irish Independent website…

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A considerable number of Irish Air Corps have gone on to work in Intel and have generally been astounded by the high levels of chemical health & safety employed there.

While it is very disappointing to hear of personnel being injured at Intel it just goes to show that even with a high quality health & safety regime dangerous exposures can still happen. 

The Irish Air Corps on the other hand had dangerous chemicals dripping down the walls from extractor fans yet still claim that Air Corps personnel were not exposed to dangerous chemicals. Safety was so poor in the Irish Air Corps that personnel didn’t even know what PPE was, it wasn’t part of the lexicon. 

Below is the safety data sheet for the sealant alleged to have caused harm in Intel. The dangerous chemical components of this sealant are called isocyanates. Isocyanates are notorious immune sensitisers and were the class of chemicals involved in the Bhopal disaster. Persons sensitised to isocyanates can suffer asthma attacks & anaphylaxis at levels as low as one part per billion. Furthermore sensitisation to one isocyanate like HDI can lead to a cross sensitisation to other isocyanates like MDI or TDI etc. 

The Spray Paint Shop at Casement Aerodrome emitted hexamethylene diisocyanate on a daily basis as a component of polyurethane paint, these emissions contaminated Engineering Wing Hangar while other personnel went about their unrelated daily business.

BFTS personnel were also exposed to methyl-diphenyl diisocyanate when they filled barrels with expanding foam for air firing at Gormanston.

If anyone who has lost a loved one before age 66, who had worked in the Irish Air Corps as military or civilian personnel or as work experience students please feel free to contact the Irish Independent journalist Rodney Edwards via email to redwards@independent.ie 

If you are serving or former personnel and if you are sick because of your service or if were or are being bullied for being sick please consider emailing Rodney too.

Veterans say Irish Air Corps to blame over health problems caused by (unprotected) exposure to toxic chemicals at work

Former airman Gary Coll can’t walk without the aid of a stick. He wakes up in pain each morning and suffers from a slow heart rate, memory loss, severe anxiety, and chronic fatigue — which he blames on having been exposed to dangerous chemicals while serving in the Air Corps over 20 years ago.

Registered disabled at the age of 35, Coll says he has suffered a litany of health problems over the years as a result, including stomach ulcers and bowel, thermo-regulation, and urinary issues.

His colleague Pat Reilly suffers a litany of problems too. They feel ignored by the State. In today’s Sunday Independent, they share their stories.

Read full article by Rodney Edwards on Sunday Independent website…

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36 men and 1 woman have died since a protected disclosure was made to Minister Simon Coveney in 2015. Minister Coveney has done absolutely nothing to provide targeted healthcare for  exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay.

If anyone who has lost a loved one before age 66, who had worked in the Irish Air Corps as military or civilian personnel or as work experience students please feel free to contact the Irish Independent journalist Rodney Edwards via email to redwards@independent.ie 

If you are serving or former personnel and if you are sick because of your service or if were or are being bullied for being sick please consider emailing Rodney too.

AIR RAGE Dangerous chemicals have caused deaths of 90+ former members of Defence Forces, TD claims

TWO former members of the Defence Forces have died in the last month as a result of dangerous exposure to dangerous chemicals, a TD has claimed.

Wicklow TD John Brady has expressed concern over reports that another two former members of the Defence Forces passed away in recent weeks, after working with dangerous chemicals during their time of service with the Air Corps.

This brings the figure to over 90 former members of the Defence Forces who have reportedly died prematurely as a consequence of exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Mr Brady, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence, said: “Following their dangerous exposure to chemicals during their service in the Air Corps, a considerable cohort of former members have developed serious health issues.

“It is probable that there have been over 90 deaths as a consequence. “Many of those who have succumbed to illness have suffered from cancer and neurological problems, and other chronic conditions, many of which have proven to be life altering for sufferers.“ “Many are also at high risk of developing early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“Young Air Corps members, many of them apprentices, were expected to handle dangerous chemicals without appropriate, or indeed in some cases any, safety equipment or clothing.

“There is an ongoing court case since 2013. At every juncture the government has dragged its heels. It has delayed the handing over of important paperwork, despite being ordered by the court to do so. “The fact that the court case is still ongoing has been used by the government as a means to hide from answering important questions on the issue.“

“The priority at this stage has to be the prevention of further unnecessary suffering, or death, amongst members of the Defence Forces, through continued exposure to chemicals. “We also need to see that the quality of life of those that are currently suffering is improved.

“These individuals deserve fairness, and they deserve justice. “I am calling on the government to come clean on this matter. There is international precedence that can be followed here.“

Global Issue

“The Air Forces of the Netherlands and Australia have previously dealt with similar issues arising out of exposure to the same chemicals, with competence, urgency, and in a manner that was fair and just.

“The government must introduce measures to assist those who have fallen ill, along with a screening programme for all who have been exposed to these chemicals.”

Whistle-blower Gavin Tobin, who worked as a technician with the Air Corps, has previously wrote to then-Minister for Defence Simon Coveney about the issue of chemicals in 2015.

Read full article by Aoife Bannon at the Irish Sun website
https://www.thesun.ie/news/7933878/air-corps-defence-forces-chemicals-sinn-fein/

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35 men & 1 woman have died since a protected disclosure was made to Minister Simon Coveney in 2015. Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for  exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to downplay.

Air Corps members were ‘exposed to toxic chemicals’

Two more (unfortunately 3 now) ex-Air Corps members who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals while in the Defence Forces have died in the past month, a former employee has said.

Whistleblower Gavin Tobin, who worked as a technician with the Air Corps, has claimed more than 90 former colleagues have now died prematurely and fears their deaths could have been due to the effects of cancer-causing chemicals.

Read full article by Rodney Edwards  on Sunday Independent website…https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/air-corps-members-were-exposed-to-toxic-chemicals-41049792.html

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33 men and 1 woman have died since a protected disclosure was made to Minister Simon Coveney in 2015. Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for  exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay.

If anyone who has lost a loved one before age 66, who had worked in the Irish Air Corps as military or civilian personnel or as work experience students please feel free to contact the Irish Independent journalist Rodney Edwards via email to redwards@independent.ie 

If you are serving or former personnel and if you are sick because of your service or if were or are being bullied for being sick please consider emailing Rodney too.

Ex-Air Corps captain awarded €117,800 over gender discrimination

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered the Minister for Defence to pay €117,814 in compensation to a former female captain in the Air Corps.

WRC adjudication officer, Stephen Bonnlander has made the maximum possible compensation after finding Yvonne O’Rourke was victim to gender discrimination arising from “an unacceptable systematic failure” in the Defence Forces.

After a seven-year battle by Ms O’Rourke, Mr Bonnlander found she was discriminated against on gender grounds in her efforts to secure promotion.

Based at Baldonnell Aerodrome, Ms O’Rourke asserted the Defence Forces discriminated against her on the ground of her gender, in that it treated two maternity leave absences from work as equivalent to the sick absence of a male officer, and consequently gave her a poor performance rating.

The poor rating for 2010 and 2011 impacted on Ms O’Rourke’s ability to go on a mandatory training course which was required to advance to the rank of commander.

Chief Commissioner of the IHREC, Sinead Gibney stated

That Yvonne O’Rourke was treated by the Defence Forces “as if she were a man who had been on long-term sick leave rather than as a pregnant woman”.

By the time Ms O’Rourke was approved by the general officer commanding of the Air Corps to attend the Junior Command and Staff Course (JCSC), her health had deteriorated to the point that she was unable to take up the opportunity and was later retired from the Defence Forces on the grounds of ill health in July 2016.

In a hard-hitting ruling, Mr Bonnlander stated “It beggars belief that women should have been serving in the Irish Defence Forces for decades, without the Forces’ systems and instruction ever having been appropriately updated to ensure they reflect anti-discrimination law as it applies to pregnancy and maternity”.

The hearing at the WRC for Ms O’Rourke’s case against the Minister for Defence spanned six days.

In the long-running action, Ms O’Rourke was represented by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), which instructed a senior and junior counsel in the case.

Speaking today, Ms O’Rourke stated:

“I hope that what has been achieved in this outcome and  determination will shine some light on the areas of darkness that needed to be revealed within the Irish Defence Forces. I hope that this small victory will somewhat; smooth the path, pave the way forward, and inspire those left behind, to have their difficulties, hurts, issues and problems of; discrimination, victimisation, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment heard and subsequently addressed in a more expedient fashion than my seven-year struggle.”

Read full report on Irish Times website below

Five years on from protected disclosures Air Corps whistleblowers still ‘waiting for justice’

IT IS NOW five years since former members of the Air Corps submitted protected disclosures detailing allegations that they became unwell due to their exposure to dangerous chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield.

Since then, whistleblower Gavin Tobin and several of his colleagues have been trying to have their full case heard in the courts. Tobin is currently involved in litigation against the State. That remains in the discovery phase as Tobin waits for more files to be handed over.

Last July (2019), a five-panel Supreme Court hearing unanimously found in favour of Tobin, meaning the State must now disclose documents outlining any chemicals that Tobin may have been exposed to while working at the airfield between 1990 and 1999.

Tobin has been continuing to log what he has described as the untimely deaths of his colleagues. Of the 85 deaths he has cited, five relate to the 1980s seven to the 1990s and the rest have taken place since 2000.

Tobin also contacted then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in 2017, when Varadkar also held the Defence portfolio. Tobin said: “Subsequent protected disclosures to Varadkar were either ignored or forwarded to then Junior Minister Paul Kehoe.

“Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay.”

The average age of death of the cases recorded by Tobin stands at 50 years old. Tobin believes the number of deaths from chemical exposure could be as high as 100.

The 2016 HSA report warned the Air Corps it could face prosecution if it did not “comply with advice and relevant legal requirements” about how hazardous substances were managed, among other safety matters.

The HSA’s report stated immediate attention was needed at Baldonnel and that protective equipment must be made available to staff. The necessary equipment should include protective gear for eyes and hands, as well as respirators to protect against inhalation of toxic fumes.

The whistle-blowers in this case alleges there was a disregard for the safety of young Air Corps members. According to an online resource created for those who believe they were affected by the chemical exposure, there was:

  • No meaningful chemical risk assessments.
  • No risk specific health surveillance
  • No Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) issued
  • No chemical health and safety training whatsoever
  • No reporting of health and safety incidents
  • No follow up of unusual illnesses by medical personnel
  • Ignoring dangerous air quality reports
  • Personnel doused in toxic chemicals as pranks (hazing) incidents
  • Highly toxic chemicals disposed of onsite in an unsafe manner

Read full article on The Journal website below…

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To be clear, the original Protected Disclosure made in November 2015 was to make Minister Simon Coveney aware that chemical health & safety at the Irish Air Corps was completely sub standard and an ongoing threat to the health of the men & women who worked there & their families. 

The appalling working conditions that Tobin alleges harmed his health in the 1990s still prevailed in 2015. Since his Protected Disclosure his and other whistle-blower allegations of poor chemical health & safety work practices have been vindicated by both the Health & Safety Authority and the “Independent Third Party Investigator” appointed by Minister Paul Kehoe. 

The priorities of the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors are firstly to prevent further unnecessary loss of life amongst survivors and secondly to improve the quality of life of survivors by reducing unnecessary suffering. Both the Royal Australian Air Force & the Armed forces of the Netherlands have offered templates as to how to approach unfortunate workplace chemical exposure issues with competence, fairness, justice & urgency.

At no point have ACCAS nor any of the whistle-blowers sought any legal intervention into ongoing court cases. 

Delay – Deny – Die

20 Air Corps personnel died prematurely since whistleblower contacted Varadkar in 2017, Dáil hears

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19 men and 1 woman have died since the Varadkar was approached for help. Subsequent protected disclosures to Varadkar were either ignored or forwarded to then Junior Minister Paul Kehoe.

Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for  exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay. 

Delay – Deny – Die

Taoiseach under pressure as SCA slow to hand over air corps documents

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27 men and one woman have died since the first whistleblower raised concerns of untimely deaths in a Protected Disclosure to the Minister for Defence in 2015.

Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay. 

Call to strike out army’s defence of chemicals exposure case

Irish Air Corps Gulfstream IV #251 that could not fit inside hangar.

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Who would have thought that an arm of the state could simply ignore the highest court in the land with absolute impunity?

The Irish Air Corps are now at the stage of offering “dog ate my homework” excuses while personnel continue to suffer and die needlessly