Trichloroethylene used to clean the floors in Irish Air Corps cookhouse!

Every now and again when investigating poor health & untimely deaths of colleagues in the Irish Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome we come across a cluster of unexplained deaths or illness in particular work locations.

Exposures are briefly explained by location below those in RED were unexplained until personnel came forward to highlight misuse of chemicals in these locations.

Apprentice Hostel

Exposure to asbestos was the main problem in the apprentice hostel and it does not appear to have been fully removed until the mid 1990s although some efforts were made to remove the bulk of it in the late 1980s. The 1990s effort used a professional removal service while the late 1980s effort used apprentices without any PPE whatsoever. Persistent black marks on lino or floor tiles would be dealt with by calling to the nearest hangar or workshop to borrow some MEK or Trike

Avionics, ERF & Parachute Shop

Illness & untimely deaths in Avionics Squadron and Engine Repair Flight (Engine Shop) can be explained by unprotected exposure to the chemicals used in both locations and by their exposure to exhaust fumes from the Spray Paint Facility. The Parachute Shop which was part of ERF establishment also used toxic glues and exposed personnel to fumes from PU coated drysuits.

Basic Flight Training School

Illness & untimely deaths in BFTS can be explained by the IRAN inspections where DCM/Phenol paint strippers were used without PPE and the extensive use (like in heli) of corrosion inhibitors like Mastinox. Of course the fuel for the Marchettis was leaded gasoline with its own issues.

Battery Shop

Illness in the battery shop can be explained by exposure to battery electrolytes & charging fumes. The personnel walking around here with holes in their jumper, trousers and shirts from sulphuric acid was almost comical if it wasn’t such a serious risk to their health.

Cookhouse / NCOs Mess

Until now we had not been able to satisfactorily explain the unusual body count & illnesses of personnel who served in the old cookhouse kitchen, new cookhouse kitchen and NCOs Mess kitchen.

Recently we were made aware of a practice in the old cookhouse as far back as the mid 1970s whereby personnel who worked there procured solvent degreaser from up camp. We believe this degreaser again to be trichloroethylene.

This solvent was provided sometimes in 25 litre drums and sometimes in gallon containers where it was usually decanted into smaller vessels like milk bottles or coke bottles to be spread on the floor and then mopped and squeegeed until the floor was spotless.

And it turns out that this practice continued in the new cookhouse and technicians from ERF who dropped down 25 litre drums of Trike were rewarded with a wrap up of some food like steaks.

We believe this floor degreasing practice occurred in the NCOS Mess kitchen but we have no evidence yet that it occurred in the Officers Mess Kitchen but given the fluidity of personnel movements between the various catering locations it is a distinct possibility.

For some information on Illnesses caused by trichloroethylene click here.

Engineering Wing Hangar & Workshops

Illness & untimely deaths in Engineering Wing Hanagar can be explained by unprotected exposure to Paint Shop chemicals including isocyanates & thinners, Hydraulic Shop chemicals, Sheet Metal Shop chemicals, wood dust from the Carpentry Shop, welding fumes from the Welding Shop as well as paint stripper fumes and mastinox fumes from Marchetti IRANs or Alouette equivalent teardowns.

Fire Crew

Members of the fire crew would have had exposure to exhaust gasses of idling aircraft engines and would have also had exposure to fuel fumes  and burning fumes from training exercises. The Fire Crew also used PFAS based fire fighting foams.

Heli Wing

Illness & untimely deaths in Heli Wing are easily explained by unprotected exposure to the chemicals used maintaining helicopters, by exposure to fuel vapours from gravity refueling, exposure to exhaust gasses from gas turbine engines and the immune sensitisation capabilities of polyurethane coated immersion suits.  Toxic tubbing in Heli was also a thing.

Light Strike Squadron

Similarly illness & untimely deaths in Light Strike Squadron can be explained by unprotected exposure to refueling fumes, exhaust gasses and other lubricants, greases, hydraulic fluids and sealants used to maintain the Fougas. Toxic tubbing in LSS was also a thing.

Main Block

Illness & untimely deaths in the Main block can be explained by unprotected exposure to photographic film & printing chemicals. These photographic chemicals used in photo section drove death, illness & harm to offspring in personnel throughout the main block

Chemicals in use by workshops in Air Sp Coy Signals further exposed personnel in the mainblock to chemicals they would not have expected to be exposed to like trichloroethane etc.

Units exposed in the main block would include 

  • Admin Wing HQ
  • AE Section
  • Drawing Office
  • Air Corps INT
  • Medical Aid Post
  • Sgt Majors Office
  • Signals Bottom Workshop
  • Signals Top Workshop
  • Signals COMCEN
  • Signals Orderly Room & CO’s Office
  • Signals PC Maintenance Workshop
  • Signals Stores
  • Station Commanders Office

Main Tech Stores

Illness & untimely deaths in Main Technical stores can be explained by the fact that the building is sited on the old Camp Stables where hundreds if not thousands of litres of toxic chemicals such as Ardrox 666 were dumped into the ground. Complaints were made by civilian & military personnel about poor air quality  in MTS and studies were carried out but the reports have disappeared. There is also evidence that used chemical drums containing isocyanates were stored in MTS in an open state.

Photo Section

When photo section moved out of the Main Block to the old cookhouse in the early 1990s they brought their dangerous chemicals to this new locations. This new location was better equipped than the expellair in the main block. But faulty equipment and lack of chemical health & safety training meant illness & death continued.

Photographers who flew regularly exposure to refueling fumes, exhaust gasses from gas turbine engines and the immune sensitisation capabilities of polyurethane coated immersion suits.

Refuelers

Obviously refuelers were exposed on an ongoing basis to high amounts of refueling fumes and aircraft exhaust gasses but also to other dangerous additives like FSII.

Training Depot

On at least two occasions that we are aware of there was catastrophic damage caused to floors and walls by misuse of chemicals in ACTD.

On the first occasion in the late 1980s we are aware of a recruit using what we suspect to be a large quantity of MEK on twine backed traditional lino the last room on the left of the depot. The use of the chemical on this occasion melted the lino through to the twine backing.

On the second occasion in the mid 1990s at least 25 litres of trichloroethylene was used to clean the floor of some of the demonstration rooms that had been recently redecorated. The Trike was spread on the floor using mops and squeegees making the apprentices carrying out the job high. The next morning it was discovered that all the floor tiles had shriveled up and that all the paint on the walls up to about 1m had dissolved and flowed down the walls to the floor.

For some information on Illnesses caused by MEK click here.

*****

The physical layout of Baldonne means that the prevailing wind blows the exhaust gasses from idling aircraft over the whole camp.

There does not appear to have been any initiative whatsoever to reduce camp personnel exposure to exhaust gasses and in many cases aircraft exhaust into hangars due to the prevailing wind.

We have little information on chemical exposures at Gormanston except for tubbing and the use of JetA1 powered heaters inside hangars. We would welcome any information in this regards. 

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