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 pancretic 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.

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.

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.

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

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 97 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 84 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 59 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
  • 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.

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. 

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…

*****

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.

Dáil Éireann Written Answers 16/12/20 – “Not an Outdoor Gymnasium” adjacent to Spray Paint Exhaust

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)

QUESTION NO: 149

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the person or body that chose the installation location of the recently installed outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43855/20]

QUESTION NO: 150

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the way in which the Air Corps formation safety office allowed a leisure facility such as the new outdoor gymnasium at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin, to be installed 15 m to 20 m from the low level exhaust stack of the Air Corps spray paint facility; if the exhaust stack routinely emits chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction; and if he has full confidence in the current Air Corps chemicals health and safety regime. [43856/20]

QUESTION NO: 151

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of the new outdoor gym; the cost of installation; and the potential cost of relocating it to a safer alternative location at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, County Dublin. [43857/20]

Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 151, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware that three protected disclosures were received in late 2015 and January 2016 in relation to the Air Corps. Legal advice was sought and an independent reviewer was appointed. The Reviewer’s independent report considered the Defence Forces health and safety regime, its current policy and its application. Although the report found that the Defence Forces regime appears to be capable of meeting statutory requirements, it makes a number of observations; including in relation to documentation, health surveillance, and exposure monitoring. It also notes that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations. The report of the independent reviewer was provided to the individuals who made the protected disclosures and it was also published on the Department of Defence website.

In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016 by the HSA, the Air Corps had continued to work with the HSA to improve its health and safety regime. The HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. The HSA has now closed its investigation. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

I am advised by my military authorities that the facility referred to by the Deputy is in fact an outdoor training area as distinct from an outdoor Gym. This equipment was installed at a cost of €21,918 including the necessary site works. I am further advised that the Defence Forces do not plan to relocate the equipment elsewhere as they are not aware of any safety concerns pertaining to the current location.

*****

The Air Corps base at Baldonnel, Co. Dublin comprises several hundred hectares of space. That the Air Corps could install an outdoor training facility within metres of the exhaust stack of the Spray Paint Facility either shows a staggering level of confidence in the filtration capabilities of the extraction system or utter incompetence.

The outdoor training facility or “not an outdoor gym” is built on the site of the old Avionics/Engine Shop complex which was demolished when sick personnel who worked in the location started to seek their medical files. Prior to demolition the building was condemned and marked out of bounds but the minister as denied it was ever condemned in previous parliamentary questions. 

Dangerous chemicals routinely emitted by the Air Corps spray paint facility include the following that are highly dangerous to human health and especially dangerous to the health of pregnant females and their unborn child as they are capable of causing genetic mutational harm leading to congenital birth defects.

        • acetone
        • cyclohexane
        • ethylbenzene
        • heptane
        • hexamethylene diisocyanate
        • hexane
        • methyl acetate
        • methyl ethyl ketone
        • phenol
        • stoddard solvent
        • toluene
        • xylene
        • zinc chromate

For decades these very same chemicals exited this low level exhaust stack, blew across the road and into the windows of Avionics Squadron & Engine Repair Flight likely harming health and likely contributing to the untimely deaths of multiple personnel in both locations. 

DELAY – DENY – DIE

First year anniversary of formally asking Cathal Berry TD for assistance seeking medical intervention for injured Irish Air Corps chemical exposure survivors? Still NO response!

10th June 2021

Still awaiting a response from Cathal Berry TD exactly a year to the day from writing to him.

Apparently he is not so #CredibleCompetentCaring after all.

10th January 2021

Dear Deputy Berry,

Exactly six months ago on the 10th of June 2020, I  wrote a registered letter to you asking for your assistance obtaining medical interventions for chronically ill Irish Air Corps personnel in an effort to reduce unnecessary suffering & untimely deaths.

I am disappointed that after six months I have had absolutely no response or follow up to this letter, not even an basic acknowledgement of receipt.

As a former Defence Forces officer and as a medical doctor I hoped that you were best placed to both understand & champion in the Oireachtas the best interests of those suffering a multitude of health effects from decades of unprotected toxic chemical exposure in what HSA inspectors told me was “the worst case of chemical misuse in the history of the state”.

As I have not heard from you I can only assume that I was wrong and that you either simply do not believe there are any health problems suffered by serving & former Air Corps personnel due workplace chemical exposure, or worse still, you acknowledge personnel have been injured but have no interest in helping them.

I would be grateful if you could please reply publicly to this open letter and while doing so could please answer the following.

  1. Do you believe Irish Air Corps survivors when they tell you that the Health & Safety Authority found serious non compliance with the Safety, Health & Welfare At Work Act 2005 in relation to basic chemical health & safety at Casement Aerodrome and that the same HSA threatened prosecution if their “advice” was not complied with?
  2. Do you accept that the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts 1989 & 2005 were enacted by the state to protect workers from injuries and if an organisation failed to implement these same Acts for decades after they were enacted then the likelihood of injury to personnel is increased?
  3. If you do accept that the Irish Air Corps was not in compliance with the Safety, Health and Welfare At Work Acts 1989 & 2005 and if you do accept that health and safety legislation is enacted to protect workers can you please explain why you have done nothing publically to raise awareness of the Irish Air Corps chemical exposure tragedy since you were elected to Dáil Eireann almost 1 year ago and why you have not mentioned it even once in your numerous chamber utterances or press releases.

I look forward to your response, if any.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Tobin
Spokesperson
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors

Please find linked below a copy of my original letter to you and also a copy of the Health & Safety letter to the Air Corps dated October 2016 outlining urgent steps to be taken  threatening legal action if they are ignored. The HSA letter was obtained under FOI.