Some selected information from a HSA FoI request regarding the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure Scandal

Today we present to you with some selected excerpts from an extensive FoI request from the  Health & Safety Authority regarding their investigation into exceptionally poor chemical Health & Safety practices at the Irish Air Corps.

This investigation, the results of which are contained below, occurred after 10 years of annual inspections by the State Claims Agency section of the National Treasury Management Agency. It should be noted that personnel in the NTMA were entitled to performance related gratuities for supposed improvements to the risk profile of of the Irish Air Corps.

A full page of relevant chatter is included in a 27 page PDF here including:
  • Original response from Formation Safety Office (FSO) personnel towards an elected PDFORRA rep who raised initial chemical concerns.
  • PDFORRA rep being told to tell his members to contact their own unit safety reps and for PDFORRA rep to use “proper channels”
  • Formation Safety Office Sgt requesting employment of an occupational hygienist as “we do not have the competency required on site to assess this”
  • FSO OC responding that funds for an occupational hygienist had been approved.
  • PDFORRA letter to Defence Forces SO Health & Safety regarding concerns about the provision of adequate health surveillance for members in the Air Corps
  • Letter to PSO/ACOS & GOC Air Corps from Formation Safety Officer reference to PDFORRA letter containing a number of misleading and / or factually incorrect statements. The line “All the control measures in place meet and exceed best industry standards” has not aged very well.
  • Some concerns regarding exposure to fuel & exhaust fumes amongst FTS personnel.
  • A stark admission that FTS personnel were not made aware of the dangers of the chemicals used for air display coloured smoke.
  • SDS for Keystone Liquid Orang Oil used to make the orange smoke
  • Some concerns regarding occurrence of IBD in Refueler Section personnel
  • Letter from Formation Safety Officer stating he believed the risk of exposure is low and that there is no issue with provision of PPE
  • Unsigned, inadequate and therefore invalid Risk Control Sheet showing a LOW risk rating (every single one of these for any chemicals was LOW).
  • HSA letter to Air Corps after inspection prompted by chemical injury of 2 personnel that was not reported.
  • Letter from AC Formation Safety Advisor in response to HSA intervention giving a timeline to comply with measures that were a legal obligation since 1989.
  • We have redacted the names of those involved.

 

 

 

Fourth study of mortality and cancer incidence in aircraft maintenance personnel: a continuing study of F1-11 Deseal/Reseal personnel 2016

Summary

From 1974 to 2000, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) put in place formal Deseal/Reseal (DSRS) programs, in addition to informal repair methods, to correct fuel leaks in Australia’s F-111 fleet of aircraft. These programs were undertaken at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, and were suspended in early 2000 due to health concerns among DSRS personnel. A series of inquiries, investigations and scientific studies were commenced to determine the extent and impact of those health concerns.

As part of those investigations, the Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study (MCIS) was started to answer the following research question: did RAAF personnel involved either directly or indirectly in the F-111 DSRS maintenance programs (the DSRS-exposed Study Population) experience higher levels of mortality or cancer incidence compared with two groups of non-exposed RAAF personnel (the Comparison populations)—the RAAF Base Amberley (non-technical) Comparison Population and the RAAF Base Richmond (technical) Comparison Population?

Key findings

The results of the 4th MCIS show that involvement in the DSRS programs at RAAF Base Amberley was associated with a statistically significant 20–30% increase in the rate of cancer diagnosis, compared with both Comparison populations.

Involvement in the DSRS programs was also associated with a statistically significant 27% decrease in mortality compared with the Amberley Comparison Population.

Download the full study below.

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The key takeaway here is that a statistically significant 20-30% increase in cancer was turned into 27% lower mortality by awareness, vigilance and a coordinated medical response. 

  • Medical treatment for a range of conditions
  • Counselling through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling;
  • Participation in Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling coordinated programs, including the Lifestyle Management Course and Heart Health;
  • Eligibility to participate in the Better Health Program – a cancer screening and disease prevention program; and
  • approved travel to attend medical consultations and counselling sessions and healthy lifestyle programs through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling.

The policy of successive Taoisigh, Tánaistí, Ministers for Defence, Chiefs of Staff and Director Generals of the Department of Defence was, and appears still to be, to let personnel suffer and die unnecessarily without any targeted intervention whatsoever by the state. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

 

 

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

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 96 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 83 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 58 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
  • 27% deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 16% 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 52 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.

95 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 95 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 82 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 58 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

  • 40% of deaths are from cancer
  • 27% deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 16% 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 52 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

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.

94 Untimely deaths recorded in Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 94 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 81 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 57 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

  • 40% of deaths are from cancer
  • 27% deaths are from cardiac issues
  • 16% 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 52 years. We are counting deaths from medical reasons & suicide, we are not counting accidental deaths nor murder.

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.

Was the Engine Shop / Avionics complex at Irish Air Corps condemned before demolition?

We revisit an old Parliamentary Question that was never fully resolved.

Personnels say ERF/Avionics was condemned and placed out of bounds, previous junior minister says no record of this.

Perhaps Simon Coveney could “ask someone”?

Written answers – Wednesday 5th July 2017- Department of Defence Properties

Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)

269. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date on which the building was condemned; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31724/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the military authorities that it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy within the allocated time. However, I have requested that the information be sourced as a matter of urgency and I will reply to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

No further response

Written answers – Thursday 12th October 2017 – Department of Defence Properties

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

188. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) at Casement Aerodrome, Dublin was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date of condemnation; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43216/17]

Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)

I have been advised by the military authorities that the former ERF Avionics building, which was a mixed brick and prefabricated structure, was demolished in 2009 as a direct result of the completion of more permanent, bespoke designed workshops in 2007.

They have further advised that following a review of records at the relevant locations within the Defence Forces that no known documentation exists indicating that this building was ever condemned or placed out of bounds prior to being demolished.

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The ERF / Avionics complex was highly contaminated and placed out of bounds in September 2007. Air Corps engineers where also actually fearful that the building would collapse during use.

However, in 2008 rooms on the Avionics side were pressed into use as indoor training areas for the Air Corps College. These indoor training areas shared contaminated air with ERF through interlinked open attic spaces thus further exposing personnel in an unprotected manner to dangerous chemical fumes such as dichloromethane.

Also in 2008 personnel who served in ERF sought their medical files from the Defence Forces and subsequently in early 2009 the building was demolished. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE