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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Illnesses linked to trichloroethylene aka TCE aka TRIKE
CAS number: 79-01-6
Diseases linked to this toxicant grouped by strength of evidence.
- Acute hepatocellular injury (hepatitis)*
- Acute tubular necrosis
- Autoimmune antibodies (positive ANA, anti-DNA, RF, etc.)*
- Cardiac congenital malformations*
- Childhood leukemias
- Cognitive impairment (includes impaired learning, impaired memory, and decreased attention span) / mental retardation / developmental delay*
- Decreased coordination / dysequilibrium
- Fetotoxicity (miscarriage / spontaneous abortion, stillbirth)*
- Hearing loss*
- Hepatocellular cancer (liver cancer)*
- Lymphoma (non-Hodgkin’s)*
- Psychiatric disturbances (disorientation, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, paranoias, anxiety/depression, emotional lability, mood changes, euphoria)*
- Renal (kidney) cancer*
- Trigeminal neuropathy
- ADD/ADHD, hyperactivity*
- Adult-onset leukemias*
- Brain cancer – adult*
- Breast cancer*
- Cervical cancer
- Choanal atresia
- Genito-urinary malformations (includes male and female)
- Hodgkin’s disease (lymphoma)*
- Immune suppression
- Low birth weight / small for gestational age / intra-uterine growth retardation
- Lung cancer*
- Multiple myeloma*
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Neural tube defects / CNS malformations
- Oral clefts (cleft lip and palate)
- Pancreatic cancer*
- Peripheral neuropathy*
- Prostate cancer*
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
- Systemic lupus erythematosus*
- Testicular cancer*
Illnesses marked thus * have been suffered by Irish Air Corps personnel or their offspring.
A MAN WHO is taking the State to court over his time in the Air Corps believes 72 of his colleagues died prematurely, linking their deaths to alleged chemical exposure at work.
The recent death of a former airman has brought the alleged death toll to 72, according to the whistle-blower.
He also alleges that:
- 72 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980
- 59 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
- 36 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
The whistle-blower is claiming that the State neglected health and safety rules and exposed himself and his fellow workers to seriously harmful levels of toxic chemicals. This continues to be strongly contested by the State.
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…
Delay – Deny – Die
A whistleblower who has raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures in the Air Corps says the force used five of the same chemicals at the centre of a cancer scandal involving tech giants Samsung.
The whistleblower has compiled a list of 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that he believes should prompt an investigation into chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.
South Korean company Samsung last week apologised for the sickness and deaths suffered by some of its workers after they were linked to chemical exposures in its facilities. Dozens of employees have experienced grave illnesses such as leukaemia and brain tumours.
Samsung and a group representing ailing workers agreed compensation terms after a highly publicised standoff that had been ongoing for more than a decade. The president of its device solutions division said the company failed to “sufficiently manage health threats” at its plants
SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry) is a group campaigning on behalf of those who worked in Samsung facilities and subsequently suffered illnesses.
Its website has listed case studies and chemicals used by Samsung, including trichloroethylene, a known carcinogenic used by the Irish Air Corps until 2007.
This newspaper has previously revealed the details of an internal Air Corps memo that said it is possible staff may have ingested Triklone N, a vapour degreaser that contains trichloroethylene, over a 27-year-period.
The memo said staff could have suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.
The summary of an internal Air Corps report, compiled in 2014, asks: “Can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”
Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…
Samsung has apologised to employees who developed cancer at one of its computer chip manufacturing facilities following a ten-year legal battle.
The announcement comes after the company and a group representing ailing Samsung workers agreed to accept compensation terms and end a highly-publicised standoff. The company’s apology was part of the settlement.
Kim Ki-nam, the head of Samsung’s semiconductor business, said: “We sincerely apologise to the workers who suffered from illness and their families. We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories.”
Campaigners claim that 320 employees at Samsung have developed illnesses after being exposed to toxic chemicals at in its chip factories. They also claim that 118 people died as a result.
Read more on the Telegraph UK
Here is a list of some of the chemicals used by Samsung and surprise, surprise all of them bar one were used by the Irish Air Corps in different hangars, labs & workshops at Baldonnel & Gormanston aerodromes.
In fact Trichloroethane was so “borrowed” by other units that almost every location at Baldonnel would send personnel up to the Engine Shop to obtain some TRIKE in plastic Coca Cola bottles, milk cartons, aerosol lids or any other vessel capable of begging some of the liquid. Trike was used to clean, degrease or even just remove black marks off floors.
This last usage meant that on at least 2 occasions floors in the Air Corps Training Depot were actually disolved in separate incidents years appart. One where old fashioned lino was dissolved back to the backing twine and another years later were a lecture room was mopped with a 25 litre drum of Trike that resulted in the vinyl floor tiles shrinking & curling up and the wall paint disolving & flowing off the walls onto the floor.
|Chemical||Used By Samsung||Used By Air Corps|
aka TCE aka Trike
|Thinners (containing Benzene, Toluene, Xylene).||Yes||Yes|
|Response||Kim Ki-nam, the head of Samsung’s semiconductor business, said: "We sincerely apologise to the workers who suffered from illness and their families. We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories.”||You were not exposed to toxic chemicals.
If you were exposed to toxic chemicals you should have worn the PPE provided.
You should have relied upon the Chemical Training provided.
You should have used common sense.
Note that the “independent third party” investigator, Christopher O’Toole, is a retired barrister from the office of the Attorney General (an office incidentally being sued by exposed personnel..so much for third party independence). O’Toole could find no documentation to back up the Air Corps / State Claims Agency claim that PPE was provided nor that Chemical Training was provided….simply because it WASNT…not until 2017 a full 2 years after the whistleblower’s protected disclosures.
Furthermore O’Toole DID NOT investigate ILLNESS, O’Toole DID NOT investigate CHEMICAL EXPOSURE. O’Toole only really investigated whether documentation to prove Air Corps compliance with Health & Safety legislation existed prior to 2015 and he could find NONE.
My expertise is in the area of law and in carrying out this review it was my intention to examine compliance by the Air Corps with the relevant law and regulation. I was not in a position to consider the substances in use or any implications for human health arising from such use as these issues are outside my competence. The allegations concern both the current health and safety regime and compliance with that regime in a period stretching back over 20 years.
Delay – Deny – Die
The University of Limerick sent 3 engineering students a year, from about 1990 to 2008, for work experience at the Irish Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
During their work experience all the UL students were exposed to a range of CMR chemicals in an unprotected manner and at levels known by the Air Corps to be over airborne health and safety limits.
To date the University of Limerick have refused to alert their former students to the fact that they were overexposed to toxic chemicals including Trichloroethylene, Trichloroethane, Dichloromethane, Hexamethylene Diisocyanate, Toluene, Xylene, Benzene, Hexavalent Chromium and many more.
Like their military counterparts that served during the same time period some of the UL students have been injured by their time serving in the Irish Air Corps. They all need to be informed of their exposure so that those suffering can receive appropriate medical help.
The actions of the University of Limerick on this issue to date have been shameful.
A research team from the University of Newcastle (Australia) has completed an investigation into whether there is an association between adverse health and an involvement in F-111 fuel tank deseal/reseal activities and, if so, the nature and strength of that association.
The current health status of those workers was compared with the health of groups of workers with similar backgrounds from Amberley and Richmond air bases.
Yield of literature review
Associations between exposure and health outcomes
- Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and Other Neurological Examinations
- Other Neurological Outcomes
- Reproductive Health Effects
- Other health effects
- Health and the Manufacture and Maintenance of Aircraft
Measurement of exposure and outcomes
- Measurement of Neuropsychological Deficits
Summary of Results and Implications for General Health and Medical Study
- Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and other Neurological Effects
- Birth Defects
- Other Health Effects
When the RAAF and the Australian Government discovered there was a chemical exposure problem and associated health problems amongst aircraft maintenance personnel they initiated some health studies one of which became known as SHOAMP. These studies are ongoing and report every 4 years to the best of our knowledge.
Australia does have a Department of Veteran Affairs and operates schemes whereby medical & financial support are in place to support RAAF personnel affected by the F1-11 Deseal / Reseal program.
These schemes are far from perfect and are a cause of ongoing stress amongst Australian survivors but obviously preferable to Ireland where Irish Air Corps sick personnel have to risk their home to take the the state to court while our compassionate medically qualified Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar recently refused medical help for Air Corps personnel in the Irish parliament and goaded sick survivors to sue.
Any person who served in the Irish Army Air Corps needs to read the above document which is the 2003 SHOAMP report. Unfortunately many links on the Australian DVA website are down. As we find newer SHOAMP reports we will make them available.
Illnesses linked to Trichloroethylene (TCE) aka TRIKE