British troops ‘knowingly exposed’ to toxic chemical during Iraq war tell of cancer battles and daily nosebleeds

Nearly 100 RAF soldiers were ordered to guard the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in 2003. They didn’t know it was covered in sodium dichromate, a deadly chemical that causes cancer.

Iraq war veteran Andy Tosh points to his nose where he was treated for skin cancer and shows the red marks on his hand.

His health has been permanently damaged – not by the baking heat of the Iraqi desert, he says, but by a toxic chemical at the industrial site he was ordered to guard.

“It’s clear British troops were knowingly exposed,” the 58-year-old former RAF sergeant says.

Sky News can reveal that nearly 100 British troops may have been exposed to sodium dichromate while guarding the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in 2003.

Ten British veterans who guarded the plant have now spoken publicly about their ordeal – and say they feel “betrayed” by the UK government after struggling with a range of health problems, including daily nosebleeds, a brain tumour and three who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Described as a “deadly poison”, sodium dichromate is a known carcinogen. The ground at Qarmat Ali was covered in it, according to the former servicemen.

The Ministry of Defence says it is willing to meet the veterans to work with them going forward – but the former troops say they want answers and accountability.

Before the US took over the site, the water was filtered and treated with sodium dichromate to increase the life of pipelines, pumps, and other equipment.

It’s a type of hexavalent chromium, a group of compounds made famous by the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, which dramatised the contamination of water around a California town.

“I noticed a rash on my forearms,” Mr Tosh said. “I’d operated in other hot tropical countries, I’ve never had a rash like I had on my forearms.

“Other members of our teams had different symptoms but at the time we had no idea why.”

It was a mystery.

That is, until two workers in hazmat suits and respirator masks turned up in August 2003 and put up a sign with a skull and crossbones on it.

“Warning. Chemical hazard. Full protective equipment and chemical respirator required. Sodium dichromate exposure” the sign read.

“We were shocked,” Mr Tosh added. “We’d already been on that site for months, being exposed.

“It was a different type of threat that none of us could really understand.”

US commander’s death linked to sodium dichromate

The plight of US troops who were exposed to sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali is far better documented than their UK counterparts. National guardsmen who visited the site have become ill, leading to a formal inquiry and government support for veterans across the pond.

“While I was at Qarmat Ali, I began suffering from severe nosebleeds,” Russell Powell, an American former medic, told a Senate inquiry.

Within three days of arriving at the plant in April 2003 he developed rashes on his knuckles, hands and forearms, he said. Others in his platoon suffered similar ailments, he added.

Mr Powell said he had questioned a KBR worker about the powder, who said his supervisors had told him not to worry about it.

Speaking at a hearing in 2009 held as part of the inquiry, Mr Powell added: “My symptoms have not changed since my service in Iraq… I cannot take a full breath.” Lieutenant-Colonel James Gentry, of the Indiana National Guard, was stationed at Qarmat Ali in 2003.

“They had this information and didn’t share it,” he said in a deposition video, his face pale as he struggled to breathe. He was referring to contractors KBR.

“I’m dying now because of it.”

Lt Col Gentry died from cancer in 2009. The US Army deemed that his death was “in line of duty for exposure to sodium dichromate”, according to court documents.

Read full article by Michael Drummond on the Sky News website…


Ardrox 666, which contains hexavalent sodium chromate, running down the walls of the Irish Air Corps NDT Shop from an extractor fan in 2007

Hexavalent Chromium is & was widely used on a regular basis in the Irish Air Corps. It must be noted the Irish Air Corps ignored the chemical provisions of the Safety, Health & Welfare At Work Acts, 1989 & 2005 until the Health & Safety Authority threatened legal action in 2016 to force them to comply. This was after whistleblowing by a serving Air Corps member who was subsequently constructively dismissed.

Hexavalent Chromium and other very hazardous chemicals were used in the past by teenage apprentice technicians who had no chemical handling training, no education on the short or long term chemical exposure risks as well as no PPE.

Furthermore, when the Irish Air Corps discovered contaminated workshops in 1995 they hid this from personnel. When told by state body Forbairt in 1997 to to give all personnel chemical handling training, issue PPE and train personnel in how to use it they ignored this instruction too.

Some examples of chemical products used in Baldonnel that contain hexavalent chromium (chromates or dichromates) are listed below.

Alocrom 1200

  • Potassium Dichromate
  • Sodium Dichromate

Alodine 600

  • Potassium Dichromate
  • Sodium Dichromate

Ardrox 666

  • Sodium Chromate

Ardrox 670

  • Sodium Chromate
  • LR4871
  • Zinc Chromate

Mastinox 6856H

  • Zinc Chromate

Mastinox 6856K

  • Barium Chromate
  • Strontium Chromate

Mastinox C627B

  • Barium Chromate

Mastinox D40 

  • Barium Chromate

Mastinox JC5A 

  • Barium Chromate

Metaflex 1001 Wash Primer

  • Zinc Potassium Chromate

Metaflex FCR Primer Yellow

  • Zinc Chromate


  • Calcium Dichromate
  • Magnesium Dichromate


  • Calcium Dichromate


  • Strontium Chromate


  • Calcium Dichromate
  • Magnesium Dichromate

PR-1436G E2

  • Calcium Dichromate
  • Sodium Dichromate


  • Calcium Dichromate
  • Magnesium Dichromate


  • Calcium Dichromate
  • Magnesium Dichromat


  • Magnesium Dichromate

Delay – Deny – Die

State paid out more than €10m to settle claims against Defence Forces

The State has paid out more than €10m in legal settlements of claims against the Defence Forces in the last four years but faces paying many times that amount in the coming years.

The Department of Defence has admitted that there are a total of 482 current and “open” cases against the Defence Forces. These include personal injury claims and judicial reviews.

It paid out some €10,698,855 in respect of cases taken by current or former members of the Defence Forces from 2020 to 2023.

A spokesperson said this figure represents “the total value of settlements recorded arising from litigation”.

“Any case taken against the Defence Forces, for whatever reason, must be taken against the Minister for Defence because the Defence Forces cannot act as defendants or respondents in cases of litigation.

“The Department of Defence is therefore responsible for the management of all such litigation cases, including those taken by current or former members of the Defence Forces. This litigation includes personal injuries claims.”

Defence Forces Justice Alliance spokesperson Alan Nolan said that in many cases, personnel are forced down the route of litigation.

“This is because the internal reporting and complaints channels are so unfit for purpose, personnel often use litigation as a last resort to seek justice.

The saddest thing is that even when a case might be won or lost, nothing really changes because the State might have to pay, but they don’t have to be held accountable by anybody.”

The Department has also confirmed that anybody suing the Defence Forces will still be able to give evidence in the forthcoming tribunal.

The tribunal is being established to see if the army’s complaints system is fit for purpose. The decision to hold the inquiry followed the publication of a review into allegations of brutal and “sadistic” abuse — including the rape of both male and female soldiers.

A Women of Honour spokesperson said:

“The level of payouts is a small indicator of the wrongs being perpetrated in the Defence Forces. This is a further reason why a full statutory tribunal of inquiry is required to examine what really is going on inside the Defence Forces. Sadly the Forces have become a centre of abuse of all forms and before it can be fully reformed.”

There had been concern among organisations like the Defence Forces Justice Alliance and the Women of Honour that anybody involved in proceedings would be barred from giving evidence.

The Department spokesperson said:

“Such personnel are not precluded from giving testimony/evidence to the tribunal.”

Ultimately, it will be a matter for the chair of the tribunal to determine the extent of the evidence to be heard, the spokesperson added.

Read full article by Neil Michael on the Irish Examiner website…


Delay – Deny – Die

Irish Air Corps members allege they were penalised for whistleblowing by loss of retirement ceremony

Failure to invite soldier back for unit presentation is ‘biggest slap in the face’, says airman

Unfortunate “Daft Dave” runs scared after tripping up multiple times…

It has been alleged to the Workplace Relations Commission that around half a dozen Air Corps service members were not afforded a retirement ceremony when they left the service as an act of penalisation for turning whistleblower. The claim was aired after the State failed in a bid to have the press excluded from a whistleblower protection claim against the Department of Defence earlier on Wednesday.

An Air Corps commandant gave evidence that the sort of “unit presentation” complained about would be organised primarily by colleagues and peers, and that there was “no responsibility on anyone” to arrange a retirement party.

Former airman Patrick Gorman claims he was penalised in breach of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 on the grounds that he was not invited back to his former unit to receive a presentation marking his retirement because he made protected disclosures a number of years earlier. His representative, Niall Donohue, told the Workplace Relations Commission on Wednesday that up to six former members of the No 4 Support Wing of the Air Corps, based at Baldonnel Aerodrome, “all got the same treatment” after making protected disclosures, and were prepared to come and testify in support of his claim.

Mr Guidera, appearing instructed by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, had sought a hearing “in camera” in a motion resisted by the complainant’s representative Mr Donohue.

“This is strictly in the public interest. The facts, if heard, will be greatly appreciated by the public,” Mr Gorman said.

“The biggest slap in the face you could give a soldier who’d served 35 years in the Defence Forces would be to not invite him back for a unit presentation,” Mr Gorman told the tribunal.

Mr Donohue said the alleged denial of a retirement ceremony to the veteran “undermined his reputation in the community of the Defence Forces. Why was this done to him? The answer is it was done to him because he put in his protected disclosure.”

There was legal argument over the interpretation of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 as it applied to a member of the Defence Forces.

Mr Guidera contended Defence Forces personnel only have the status of a “worker” as defined in the legislation – leaving them without the protections afforded to an “employee” in the Act.

Mr Donohue argued that the words “worker” and “employee” in the whistleblower protection law were “interchangeable”.

The adjudicator said he would adjourn the hearing to consider preliminary arguments on the admissibility of the claim, adding that he would decide at that stage whether to call a senior officer as sought by the complainant.

Read full article by Stephen Bourke on the Irish Times website…


Delay – Deny – Die

Human Health Effects of Trichloroethylene: Key Findings and Scientific Issues



Background: In support of the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a toxicological review of trichloroethylene (TCE) in September 2011, which was the result of an effort spanning > 20 years.


We summarized the key findings and scientific issues regarding the human health effects of TCE in the U.S. EPA’s toxicological review.


In this assessment we synthesized and characterized thousands of epidemiologic, experimental animal, and mechanistic studies, and addressed several key scientific issues through modelling of TCE toxicokinetics, meta-analyses of epidemiologic studies, and analyses of mechanistic data.


Toxicokinetic modelling aided in characterizing the toxicological role of the complex metabolism and multiple metabolites of TCE. Meta-analyses of the epidemiologic data strongly supported the conclusions that TCE causes kidney cancer in humans and that TCE may also cause liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Mechanistic analyses support a key role for mutagenicity in TCE-induced kidney carcinogenicity.

Recent evidence from studies in both humans and experimental animals point to the involvement of TCE exposure in autoimmune disease and hypersensitivity.

Recent avian and in vitro mechanistic studies provided biological plausibility that TCE plays a role in developmental cardiac toxicity, the subject of substantial debate due to mixed results from epidemiologic and rodent studies.


TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and poses a potential human health hazard for noncancer toxicity to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing embryo/fetus.

Read full study below


Persons working with or working in areas using trichloroethylene in Baldonnel have suffered the following illnesses. 

Untimely deaths are marked thus *

      • Brain Tumour*
      • Colorectal Cancer*
      • Crohn’s Disease*
      • Lung Cancer*
      • Multiple Sclerosis
      • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma*
      • Oesophageal Cancer*
      • Pancreatic Cancer*
      • Parkinson’s Disease
      • Renal Cancer*

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

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 105 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980 
  • 92 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 67 of these deaths have occurred since 2010
We picked the 1st of January 1980 as an arbitrary date to start counting deaths from. Obvious earlier deaths are much more difficult to discover but either the rate of death is accelerating or we are missing many deaths from previous decades or possibly both.

Most Significant Causes of Death

CauseAir Corps CohortIreland
Male Average Age of Death53 years80 years

Air Corps Untimely Deaths - Cancer

Type% of Air Corps% of IRL 3-YearDifference
Salivary Gland4.4%2.1%210%

Air Corps Untimely Deaths - Cardiac

Type% of all (105) deaths% of cardiac (31) deaths
Atherosclerosis & Ischaemic

*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.

Cancer statistics for Ireland 3-Year are taken from NCRI Annual Statistical Report 2022 taking the 3-year annual average male cancer deaths from 2018 to 2020 inclusive.  We are not statisticians & these figures have been compiled to the best of our ability.

PRESS RELEASE – Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors 1st January 2024

This morning at 1130hrs on Monday the 1st of January 2024 a list of 105 untimely / premature deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel was delivered to the gate policeman of Áras an Uachtaráin by a group representing commissioned, non-commissioned & enlisted former Air Corps personnel.

Left to right Niall Donohue (Comdt retired), Michael Brennan (Sgt retired) & Gavin Tobin (former Airman) Photo by Sean Tobin – Further photos below

This list was presented for the attention of President Michael D. Higgins in his role as Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces as 61 of the untimely deaths occurred since he assumed office in 2011. We believe that some of these lives could have been saved or prolonged and thus held our first protest outside the Áras to highlight the inaction of the Supreme Commander on this life or death issue.

The Minister for Defence was made aware of decades of serious chemical malpractice at the Air Corps in 2015 via multiple protected disclosures. However, successive Ministers for Defence, up to and including the current minister Micheál Martin, as well as their associated governments have refused to order the urgent medical investigations & interventions proven to save lives in other jurisdictions.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in his previous role as Minister for Defence, has acted to turn a medical problem, that can be mitigated, into a purely legal problem inappropriately defended using state funds.

Further protected disclosures highlighting related chemical malpractice have been made to or handled by the Chief of Staff, the Health & Safety Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Department of Defence.

Death certificate details including the following information has also been shared with the Supreme Commander.

      • Average age of deaths is 53 years.
      • 41% of deaths are from cancer
      • 12% of cancer deaths are specifically pancreatic cancer
      • 9% of cancer deaths are specifically glioblastomas of the brain
      • 30% of deaths are cardiac related
      • 20% of cardiac deaths are specifically cardiomyopathy
      • 14% of deaths are from suicide (at least 15 suicides)

We have been forced to present the list directly at Áras an Uachtaráin today after the failure of President Higgins to meet with survivors despite multiple requests going back as far as October 2018 with the most recent request in early April 2023 shortly after the publication of the Independent Review Group Defence Forces final report.

It should be noted that Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors engaged extensively with the IRG-DF and after the report was published President Higgins met with other groups, including those who did not engage with the IRG-DF, however we have been excluded without reason.

It is our intention to participate in further protests at Áras an Uachtaráin in association with other victim’s groups to highlight both historic & ongoing wrongdoings by the Defence Forces & the Department of Defence until appropriate moral, professional & statutory intervention by our Supreme Commander.

Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors – Photo by Sean Tobin
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors – Photo by Sean Tobin
Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors – Photo by Sean Tobin

1991 – DFSS 1 – Defence Forces Safety Standards on the Control of Substances (Chemicals) Hazardous to Health (COSHH)









Information on substances used at work can be obtained from a wide variety of sources. It is not merely a matter of asking the supplier – some materials have no. external supplier in the sense that they are produced within the workplace itself; by-products, intermediates, even the final product of the process. Whatever the source of the material, nothing effective can be done by way of control unless the chemical components are known. This is necessary in order to select the least toxic of a number of alternative materials which may be available and to be able to render appropriate medical treatment in cases of exposure, as well as to achieve safe and legal disposal of waste, and to introduce the right control measures.


Section 10 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 places duties onsuppliers of substances. It shall be the duty of any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any articles for use at work to:-

(a) ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the articles is. designed, constructed, tested and examined so as to be safe and without risk to health when used by a person at a place of work;

(b) take such steps as are necessary to secure that persons supplied by that person with the articles are provided with adequate information etc.

Additionally, necessary steps must be taken to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons so supplied are provided with revisions of such information as are necessary by reason of its becoming known that rise to anything gives a serious risk to health or safety.

The supplier’s information should be sufficient to enable the constituents of the material to be identified, describing the specific hazards of the product, dangerous conditions which may arise, and the necessary safety precautions. It is common ground amongst recipients that the standard of suppliers’ information varies enormously. In a 1974 US Government survey it was found that firms questioned used 95,000 different trade-named products, and that the composition of 90% of these products was not known to the companies using them. Disclosure of composition of products is not a requirement under SAHAWA, and suppliers sometime claim that the formulation is a trade secret. A useful review of manufacturers’ attitudes and the user’s need to know is contained in “Chemical Risk” by Maurice Frankel of Social Audit (Pluto Press, 1982). The book suggests that employers should adopt a policy of not using trade-named substances unless their composition is fully known. This means the provision of a data sheet (see below). The simplest test of the adequacy of suppliers’ information is whether there is sufficient information to allow the user to carry out a COSHH assessment.

Chemical Components of Hazardous Substances

Once the type of chemical composition is known, information can be sought from a variety of sources. The supplier’s data sheet should not be used sources should alone; other be used to check that what is supplied is fact, or else that the basis for the opinion can be justified. Specialist information is available from Eolas which is accessible to the public.


Data becomes less reliable and less available for mixtures, for which there is often little toxicological information. Some compounds exhibit the so-called “synergistic effect” in association with others, and a knowledge of this possibility is necessary for those evaluating hazards. for example, the combined effect of asbestos dust and the products of tobacco smoke in the lungs produces a greatly increased risk of lung cancer. Medical evidence suggests that for an estimate of lung cancer risk in people who smoke and are exposed to asbestos, you must multiply (as opposed to add) the separate individual risks from these agents. This obviously results in a much greater level of overall risk.


This section discusses the desirable contents of a data sheet received by the end user, in this case the person carrying out the COSHH assessment. One of the main recommendations of this is that the Defence Forces performing assessments, should produce its own internal data sheets compiling them from the suppliers’ information into a standard format which can’ then be assembled into a COSHH information pack for the organisation.

It is therefore necessary to devise a set of headings of information which constitutes the minimum information needed to identify and control the hazard (if any) adequately.

Appropriate Contents of Safety Data Sheets

Data FieldTypical Contents
1. Product and Company IdentificationTrade Name Company Name, Division, Address Issue Date of Data Sheet Emergency Advice Telephone Number
2. Information On IngredientsChemical Name(s) Mixture Ingredients Rough Proportions
3. Physico-Chemical DataAppearance Odour Boiling Point Melting/Freezing Point Flash Point Auto-F lammability Explosive Properties PH Value (As Supplied) Vapour Pressure Relative Density Viscosity Solubility Partition Co-Efficient Other Selected Data
4. Stability/ReactivityCondition To Avoid (Temperature,Pressure, Light, Shock) Materials To Avoid Hazardous Decomposition Products
5. Handling/StorageConditions Of Storage Specifying Limits Handling Precautions
6. Personal ProtectionRPE Hand Protection Eye Protection Skin Protection
7. Fire-FightingSuitable Extinguishing Media Unsuitable Extinguishing Media Specialist Protective Equipment for Firefighters
8. Measures In Case Of Accidental ReleasePersonal Precautions Environmental Precautions Clean-Up Methods
9. Health Hazard Toxicity DataConcise,. understandable descriptions of toxicological effects, including exposure routes, symptoms of both gross short-termover exposure and of longer-term lesser exposure, delayed effects and information about any relevant occupationa] exposure limit
10. First Aid MeasuresBrief, understandable, subdivided by exposure route, include delayed effects and whether immediate medical attention is required. Notes To Physicians
11. Ecological InformationMobility Persistence Degradability Aquatic Toxicology
12. Waste DisposalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Methods Of Disposal Handling Of Contaminated Packaging
13. TransportTransport Regulation Requirements
14. Hazard LabellingCPL Hazard Classification Description

For Defence Forces data sheets it will be neither appropriate nor necessary to include all the above fields of information. of comprehension, and selection will be required of what is needed and the necessary contents of each field which will be appropriate and relevant for the end users.


All substances potentially hazardous to health, can be that managed safely provided a suitable strategy has been devised and is in place. Such a Strategy will contain four parts:-





The term assessment encompasses not only the assessment of the hazards and risks involved, but also the subsequent development of control techniques applicable to the substance in question. An assessment therefore, should be regarded as a total strategy, and is best set down in writing.

This Standard uses the words hazard and risk. The words have specific and different meanings. A hazard is a situation with a potential to cause .injury or damage. A hazardous substance is one which, by virtue of its chemical properties, constitutes.a hazard. A risk is the probability or likelihood of the hazard actually causing a degree of injury or damage. Thus assessment of a hazardous substance is based solely on the properties of the substance, whereas assessment of the risk needs a review of these properties in the light of the specific way substances are handled, used or encountered at work and judgement of whether the risk to people, (and property and the environment) is tolerable.

How Hazardous Substances Are Encountered At Work

Every workshop and most offices, shops and other workplaces, handle chemicals. Hazardous substances may be encountered at work in five main ways:-

    • as raw materials for manufacturing or service processes. Examples are solvents for degreasing paints used to coat the product or for respraying cars, fertilisers in agriculture, and toners for dry copiers;
    • as engineering and cleaning materials, such as lubricants, cutting oils, water treatment chemicals, decorative paints, toilet cleaner and bleaches:
    • for service functions, such as adhesives, correcting fluids;
    • as products of the process, whether as intended products, by-products, waste products or intermediates; or
    • as incidental products such as the Legionella micro-organism, vehicle exhaust fumes or ozone from copiers.

The Hazards Of Chemicals

The principle groups of chemicals are those classified as very toxic, toxic, harmful, corrosive or irritant, under the EEC Regulations governing classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. There are three other groups: micro-organisms, unclassified substances and dust. Dust is defined as hazardous if it is present in substantial quantity, even if it has no apparently harmful properties covered in DFSS 1 1991.

Some substances have hazards which could endanger many people immediately in a Single incident. Others may be the cause of disease which could take many years to develop. Substances can be categorised according to the type of harm they can cause; many substances fall into more than one category.

Corrosive chemicals, such as strong acids or strong bases, will attack other materials or people. Chemical burns are usually painful, deep-seated and slow to heal.

Irritants such as acrylates may affect the skin, causing problems like. dermatitis, or they can affect the respiratory tract. Some people may also be allergic to certain sensitisers such as isocyanates and epoxy resins.

Agents of anoxia are those vapours or gases which dilute the oxygen available in the air or prevent the body using it effectively. Examples are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.

Toxic substances are those which can harm the body, in a number of ways. Often, these work by damaging an organ such as the liver or kidneys. Examples are chlorinated solvents and the heavy metals.

A few substances can prevent the correct development and growth of the cells of the body. Carcinogens can cause or promote the growth of unwanted cells, as a cancer. Teratogens may cause an embryo to develop abnormally, and to be born with defects or be stillborn. Mutagens can cause cell changes with an attendant risk of cancer.

Effects Of Hazardous Substances

Apart from their innate hazardous properties, the ease with which substances can enter the body and the body entry route are further crucial factors in determining the total harmful effect. Substances may penetrate the skin, either through cuts, or if they are fat solvents, through intact skin. They may be ingested through the mouth, often as a result of poor standards of hygiene. Normally the most important route of entry though is through the respiratory system. This is because the respiratory system can be a very efficient and sensitive method of transferring materials from the outside environment into the body.

Substances may cause harmful health effects from a single dose, or from an accumulation of smaller doses, or from continuous exposure over long periods. The effect may be acute illness, or a chronic, long term disease.

Single doses do not necessarily cause only acute disease, neither are cumulative doses the only causes of chronic disease.

The Assessment

Who will be judged competent to carry out an assessment? The simple answer is – anyone, provided that the result provides adequate control of all the potential hazards deriving from substances used, produced, stored and handled at work. Persons must have expertise commensurate with the risk, process complexity and variability. For most Units using substances, there will be people in place with special or certainly adequate, knowledge of those substances.

The aim of this Section is to provide such an approach, which can be logged in the format suggested by the accompanying charts. The approach has the benefit of “showing the working” and also minimises the chances of missing a substance or failing to complete the assessment. The charts include an assessment sheet to record the results of air sampling exercises, and provides a File Record.

Assessment – A Structured Approach

Phase 1

Obtaining And Passing On Knowledge
      1. Prepare lists of chemicals, substances, mixtures which are used, bought in, produced in the location/activity, or to which employees are otherwise exposed at work.
      2. Consolidate the lists, and prepare a suitable Data Sheet.
      3. Marshall information from suppliers, external data sources, industry associations, etc., on the properties and hazards.
      4. Summarise the basic hazards (if any) of each substance in the list.
      5. Prepare summary data sheets on substances judged to be hazardous to a common pattern, and distribute to interested parties.

Phase 2

Assessment Of Risks In Practice
      1. Assess each process using the substances listed.
      2. Identify substances defined “hazardous to health”.
      3. Review all substances and associated hazards to identify further hazards or rule against unacceptable processes or practices.
      4. Assess likely exposure to the substances listed, including any exposure of non-employees.
      5. Compare this with a standard. (Provided through Eolas).
      6. Decide on need for air sampling and for biological monitoring and who should perform this, to assist in (4) and (5).
      7. If air sampling is required, record the results.
      8. Ensure medica1 records are kept in respect of any personal biological monitoring carried out.

Phase 3

Control Of Hazards And Risks
      1. For each chemical, decide and record how it is to be controlled.
      2. Produce, or review, safe operating procedures in written form for each substance deemed to be hazardous, to cover processes and controL measures.
      3. Ensure that specific reference is made to appropriate personal protective equipment necessary, by type and/or irish/British Standard.

Phase 4

Monitoring Effectiveness
      1.  Establish a procedure for reviewing control] measures.
      2. Establish the frequency of any required air sampling as an on-going check, recording the results.
      3. Set up necessary arrangements for maintenance, examination and testing of local exhaust ventilation and other appropriate control measures.
      4. Establish procedures for supplying and maintaining personal protective equipment.
      5. Establish a procedure for incorporating newly-acquired substances, new hazard information or changed work practices into the assessment.
      6. Establish the training process as appropriate.
      7. Agree with Supervisors the frequency at which the assessment will be repeated in full or in part.
      8. Sign and date the finished assessment, and decide on distribution of

The next part of the Section takes the four stages identified above in more detail, and should be read in conjunction with the Assessment Pro Formae.

1. Obtaining Knowledge

The necessary information on substances must be acquired and collated. Substances may be brought into an organisation for a number of purposes. They may be:-

(a) Bought In As Raw MaterialsRaw Materials Solvents Products Which Generate Oust. During Processing Finishing chemicals
(b) Produced As Part Of The ProcessIntended Products By-Products Waste Products Intermediate Products
(c) Bought For Engineering And CleaningCleaning Solvents Bleaches Oils Water Treatment Chemicals General Cleaning Fluids
(d) Bought For Service FunctionsChemicals For Copiers Adhesives Correcting Fluids Sodium Hypochlorite For Swimming Pools
(e) Produced By Other Means
"Legionella" and Other Micro-Organisms Engine Fumes Welding Fumes Ozone From Copiers

It will be seen that “substances” includes not only simple materials but mixtures, intermediates, waste and final products.

The first stage in the obtaining of necessary knowledge is to prepare a complete of all substances that are bought, used or made on the premises. The list could be produced by a number of individuals, some of whom may approach the subject by listing the work activities and deriving the list from an analysis. Others may carry out physical audits of the workplace, stores areas and the like to forma list of substances known to be physically present. A combination of these different lists will be more thorough than the list produced by any single individual.

The second stage is the production (and re-ordering) of the list in tabular form, so that progress reached can be easily noted and compared. It will be found simpler to begin with raw materials and follow with processes and the remainder.

The third stage is the marshalling of all necessary information about each substance, compound, mixture or “pure” chemical. A primary source for this information, but never the only source or the complete source, should be the: supplier. As. discussed in the previous section, data sheets provided by suppliers will rarely contain all the necessary information, and may only highlight hazards thought by the supplier to be of particular relevance. Also, the layout of data sheets may vary and some suppliers may limit the information provided deliberately or by default.

The completion of the data sheets forces the fourth stage or preparation. (Other sources of information are listed in the bibliography. (The assessor should be in possession of a current copy of at least one of the principal standard works on chemical hazards.)

Although some suppliers are reluctant to reveal the chemical] composition of their products on grounds of alleged commercial confidentiality, there can be few, if any, occasions on which commercial confidentiality can be justified as grounds for not supplying health and safety information. It is not possible to assess the control of a chemical adequately unless its nature is known. All chemical components of mixtures and proprietary products should be established and listed in the data sheet.

Once the data sheet is produced, it should be made readily available to any employee who may need the information, especially safety representatives. Training needs, which will be assessed regularly, will include the use of data sheets as well as the hazards associated with the specific substances encountered by trainees. A copy of the compiled data sheets should also be held by the person or persons responsible for first-aid.

The fifth stage of preparation consists of summarising the basic hazards of the substances. This information should already be present in the individual data sheets, and can usefully be tabulated alongside the name of the substances.

2. The Assessment Of Risk

The risk associated with a substance depends not only on its inherent properties (which have just been listed), but also upon the way it is to be used and the way in which it can be misused or mishandled. Before any control measures can be decided upon, every process using substances must be assessed. The depth of the assessment need not be the same in all cases, for instance if the substance concerned has a low hazard rating, or if the type of process means that exposure to the substance is likely to be low regardless of any control measures which may be applied. However, if the substance is already identified as hazardous, or the process is such that people will be exposed at high levels unless specific control measures are adopted, then an assessment with a satisfactory outcome will become a (written) justification for continuing to use the process or the substance. Sometimes the result of the assessment will be that the process should stop or be replaced by a safer one.

At this point, identify the substances which are defined as “substances hazardous to health”. These substances should be listed. The listing should contain three categories of substances:-

(a) Substances definitely classified as “hazardous to health”.

(b) Substances definitely not so classified.

(c) Substances needing further consideration or investigation.

Even for category (b), further evaluation should still be continued, of course, Since it is possible that the ways in which these substances are used in practice may make them hazardous by virtue of their quantity, temperature, etc. (Even though a substance may not be classed as “hazardous” under this scheme, it should be remembered that the assessment is a useful tool to identify all potentially hazardous substances, and it will be of value to pursue the assessment to ensure that even the lower-order hazards are adequately managed.)

Next, all the substances in the list should be reviewed to see where they are used on the premises. Each process should then be examined to see how the substances are used, what possibility there is for people to come into contact with them, the type of effect they can cause and the likely levels of exposure. The assessment must also look at chemical products, intermediates and possible products of an unwanted reaction, as well as the substances listed. (Fire and explosion risks should be investigated as well as the risks to health of substances and processes.) All the information necessary for doing this part of the assessment should already be contained on the hazard data sheets.

The assessment must also examine the possibility of substances becoming airborne as gas, vapour, dust or aerosol. Handling methods, spills or leaks and the possibility of ingestion must be considered, as airborne contaminants are not the only danger in the workplace. Ingestion and skin contact must also be evaluated. There may be a situation such as during work in tanks, sewers or other confined spaces, where vapours or gases may suddenly enter the workplace. Assessments need to consider all such possibilities.

Access the likely exposure of all those likely to become exposed. Special attention should be paid to recognising the possible presence of other people where the process is being carried out.

These assessments of exposure must then be compared with a known standard. These standards are generically referred to as “occupational exposure limits” (OELs). Most exposure limits are presented as concentrations in air of the substance concerned, as parts per million by volume in air (ppm) or weight per volume of air (mg/m3). Exposure limits are not to be regarded as dividing lines between safe and dangerous concentrations; rather they represent estimates based on more or less sound information of what people might reasonably be exposed to, day after day at work, without suffering obvious ill-effects. The exposure limits cannot safeguard everyone, some people already suffering from another disease may be at risk even if the exposure limit is met, others may be extra-sensitive. None of the lists offers standards on more than a few hundred of the many thousands of substances in regular use. These substances are given an OEL in EH40 produced by the Health and Safety Executive (UK) and available through Eolas.

If a substance is not in the list, it would be wise to set a local exposure limit, based on knowledge of the hazards of the substance and comparisons made with similar materials. Advice might valuably be sought from a toxicologist or other specialist adviser through EOLAS.

If the possibility of substances becoming airborne is low, and the concentration in air is thought unlikely ever to exceed a quarter of the OEL, then air sampling will not normally be needed. (Arranged through the Defence Advisory Group).

Whenever there is doubt as to the concentrations of hazardous substances in people’s breathing zones, or in the atmospheres of workplaces, then a carefully planned and suitable air sampling exercise should if possible be performed.

Similarly, if is suspected, as with some substances, that accumulation in the body is occurring, and there is an available biological monitoring technique for measuring this, then such a technique should be considered (i.e. blood/urine tests). Such tests are the province of the Director of Medical Services who will of course retain personal records:in accordance with regulations.

As regards both “operator breathing zone” and “static” air sampling, a wide variation in airborne concentrations across working shifts is likely to occur. The factors influencing this include: –

      1. the number of contaminant sources;
      2. the rates of release from each source:
      3. the nature and position of each source;
      4. the dispersion situation as influenced by ventilation, temperatures, etc;

The following further factors are also likely to influence the degree of personal exposure: –

      1. The work shift pattern;
      2. Reduced or nil exposure between shifts;
      3. Variation in process operation;
      4. Failure to follow precautions.

The main principles of planning and performing a responsible air sampling programme therefore include: –

      1. Always carefully monitor individual operator breathing zone concentrations (and not just background concentrations at static points).
      2. Do as much air sampling as reasonably practicable – the more results (if correctly interpreted) the greater likelihood of a correct overall conclusion.
      3. Carefully consider the suitability and stated accuracy of the air sampling and analytical technique(s) involved. (Such details are given in the HSE Methods for Detection of Hazardous Substances Series – “MDHS” Series). Further useful guidance is also given in HSE Guidance Note EH42 – (Monitoring Strategies for Toxic Substances). Sampling materials available from Eolas.
      4. Carefully record the results, conclusions and recommendations of each sampling exercise.

These steps, taken in sequence, will provide all necessary information on substance designated as “hazardous”. Decisions can then be made on the most appropriate controls.


At this stage in the assessment, information on the hazards of the materials and the likely exposure has been collected and tabulated. The final stage consists of making decisions on the best ways of controlling the hazards. This logical sequence of conducting the assessment permits review of existing control measures, which may well prove upon examination to be adequate. This can be stated, but it would be useful to note down what these measures are so that it can be demonstrated that a full assessment has indeed taken place on the date specified.

The techniques of control, in order of effectiveness, are:-

      • elimination (including process change);
      • substitution;
      • enclosure;
      • isolation;
      • local exhaust ventilation and reduced time exposure;
      • dilution ventilation;
      • use of personal protective equipment;
      • personal hygiene and washing facilities;
      • training.

Reviews of needs often reveal substances and processes which are no longer necessary. Otherwise, substitution is always the most desirable control followed by design and engineering techniques. Control systems which rely upon appropriate behaviour are always less effective than these and are more liable to failure. They each have a place in the effective management of chemical risks.

(a) Elimination/ Substitution

Can safer materials be used? There are some substances which should never be used. Others may be banned as a matter of policy. Rational justification should always be insisted upon from those who wish to use a more hazardous substance in preference to a less hazardous one.

(b) Enclosure

Can the material be handled so that individuals need never come into contact with it?

(c) Isolation

Can we put it somewhere else? The system of isolation is required to prevent access effectively, or certainly restrict access to those who need to be there.

(d) Reduced Time Exposure

As already indicated OEL’s are time-related and it may well be possible to keep below them by reducing the period(s) of exposure.

(e) Ventilation

When the hazard cannot be completely contained, ventilation systems can offer a possible solution. However, their design and installation is a specialised skill which must be done by competent ventilation engineers.

The two main methods of ventilation are general (dilution) ventilation and local exhaust ventilation (LEV). General ventilation allows the contaminant to be diluted by the introduction of fresh air into the workroom, This can be done by a general extractor fan, by blowing air into the room, or installation of air conditioning. Dilution ventilation of this kind can ensure that humidity and carbon dioxide levels are maintained within known limits, and is important generally for the control of the working environment.

It is also the preferred technique for controlling the atmosphere within a confined space. However, it is a very inefficient way of controlling specific air contaminant problems. For this, local exhaust ventilation is preferable since it captures emissions at source.

Ventilation systems only work well if they are used as intended and designed and when they are maintained in good condition. They require training of operators to use them effectively, and their performance must be monitored.

The best results are achieved by extracting contaminated air as close to the source as possible, or using an enclosure with extract ventilation such as a fume cupboard or paint spray booth.

(f) Personal Protective Equipment

The issuing of personal protective equipment against a hazard constitutes  an explicit statement that nothing further can be done to control exposure other than by requiring operators to wear and maintain a personal piece of equipment. It should be recognised by all concerned that personal protective equipment is the last line of defence, and should never be selected as the first or only option where other control measures such as those discussed above are available. Personal protective equipment will be needed, though, then the other control measures will not be feasible, or will offer only partial control. Systems for the selection, use and maintenance of personal protective equipment must be thorough. Training and information are required in the selection process, as well as in the correct use and maintenance of it.

(g) Personal Hygiene and Washing Facilities

Where hazardous substances present a risk, particularly of skin contact and/or ingestion, the value of good personal hygiene and provision of adequate washing facilities is self-evident.

(h) Training

To be effective, all the foregoing control measures need the backup of training for all concerned.

Monitoring Effectiveness

Assessment is only the first step in complying with Safety Regulations in the use of chemicals. It will be necessary to make sure that the control strategies set out in the assessment are followed and are effective. This is why they should be reviewed. Assessment requires not only a review of risks, but also a review of the measures used to control the risks. Purchasing procedures, quality control, permit-to-work systems and access to plant if isolation is the chosen strategy all offer examples of such measures.

After the assessment has been completed, consideration should be given to methods of publicising the results where appropriate. The information produced by the assessment is the kind which is intended to be given to employees and to safety representatives, who are entitled to receive it and be consulted by Commanding Officers. (Section 13 of Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act.)




General Texts

Chemicals – A Bibliography: List of Health and Safety Executive/Health and Safety Commission References. HSE, UK. ;

Guidance Notes in the Environmental Hygiene (EH) Series. HSE, HMSO, UK.

Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards. NIQOSH/OSHA, USA.

Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety. International Labour Office, Geneva.

Cashman J. R. Hazardous Materials Emergencies. Technomic Publishing Co., USA.

Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene. National Safety Council, USA.

Handbook of Occupational Hygiene. Kluwer Publishing Ltd., Brentford, Middlesex, UK.

Hazards Of Chemicals

Patty, F. A., Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. Interscience Publishers, New York, USA

Encyclopedia of Chemical Toxicology. (2nd Edition). Kirk-Othmer, Wiley-Interscience, New York, USA.

Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS). NIOSH, USA.

Gleason M. N. et al. Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products. The Williams Wilkins Co., USA.

Sax N. I., Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials. Nan Nostrand Rheinhold Co., USA

Deichmann W. B. & Gervarde H. W. Toxicology of Drugs and Chemicals. Academic Press, USA

Stecher P. G. The Merck Index. Merck & Co. Inc., USA.

Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. NIOSH/OSHA, USA

Standards For Control And For labelling Of Chemicals

Occupation Exposure Limits for Airborne Toxic Substances. (Gives limits  other information on standards applied by a number of countries). International Labour Office, Geneva.

Occupational Exposure Limits – Guidance Note EH40. (Revised Annually). HSE, HMSO , UK.

Threshold Limit Values (TLVs} and Biological Exposure Indices. (Revised Annually) American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACHIH)  Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Information Approved for the Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Dangerous Substances  (Authorised and Approved List) 1988. HMSO, UK.

Control Techniques

An Introduction to Local Exhaust Ventilation HS(G)37. Health and Safety Executive , HMSO, UK

The Industrial Environment – Its Evaluation & Control. (1973) NIOSH , USA.

Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice. (17th Edition). American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) , USA.

Fundamentals Governing the Design and Operation of Local Exhaust Systems. (ANSI Standard Z9. 2). New York, USA.

CIBSE Guide. (Published in .sections). Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers London, UK.

Monitoring Techniques

Monitoring Strategies for Toxic Substances: Guidance Note EH42.

Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances (IIDHS Series). HSE, UK.

Occupational Exposure Sampling Strategy Manual.
(Publication Number 77 – 173). NIOSH, USA



References acquired and produced by HSE Library and Information Services (UK ). Available through IRS-DIALTECH, Pergamon Infoline  and Prestel.


Produced by International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre, International Labour Office, Geneva (Switzerland). Available on-line through IRS-D IALTECH


Produced by Royal Society of Chemistry (UK). Available on-line through IRS-DIALTEC, Pergamon Infoline .


Produced by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (USA). Available on-line through Pergamon Infoline.


Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances. Produced by NIOSH (USA).


EOLAS, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

IRS DIALTECH, Department of Trade and Industry, Room 392, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London, SWlE 6RB. (Telephone 071 – 215 6578).

PERGAMON ORBIT INFOLINE, 12 Vandy Street, London, EC2A 2DE. (Telephone 071 – 377 4650) .

SILVER PLATTER, 10 Barley Mow Passage, London , W4 4PW . (Telephone 081 – 995 8242).

NIFAST, Nore Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

“I started standing up for myself and the higher ranks came right back at me”

Former army member Alan Nolan voiced his concerns over policy and treatment in the Defence Forces, but instead of being listened to at the time, he was ‘screamed at, shouted at, sworn at’
Alan Nolan, ex-defence forces relaxing at home tying fishing flies. He spoke to reporter Neil Michael. Pic: Larry Cummins

Alan, a former Company Sergeant who left the army in 2017, says his own life was made a misery early on in his career after he tried to have his record cleared of a false report lodged on his military file.

He was reprimanded for being late for work at Collins Barracks in Cork in 1996 the morning after he had spent all night in Cork University Hospital’s emergency department with his young daughter.

Alan disputed the way the matter had been handled and eventually a very senior officer came up with the idea of having the reprimand taken off his military file.

But he later found out it hadn’t been removed and then when he took the matter to the internal Defence Forces Redress of Wrongs process, which is supposed to deal with soldiers’ complaints, he endured “more hell”.

So, by the time he put in a Protected Disclosure in 2017 about deficiencies in the way private medical data is handled in the Defence Forces in addition to other serious wrongdoings, he had given up all hope for any chance of fair treatment in the army.

Painful punishment

However, when he was in the army and working in the Central Medical Unit when the records system was brought in, nobody wanted to talk to him.

He says this attitude was always there, right from the very start of his career.

“I was screamed at, shouted at, sworn at and basically told that I had ‘fucked myself’ and my career by complaining about the way I had been treated in 1996, and on multiple other occasions,” he said.

“They never let me forget it and that culture still exists today.” He fears many other soldiers may also have similar issues in their careers. “You are pulled up out of the blue for no reason. This is especially the case if you dare to stick your head above the army parapet.

“I was always one of those people who believed in and tried to live by Defence Forces values.”

According to the website, these include integrity and the fact that each soldier should be “truthful, reliable and honourable”. Respect is another one, and the fact that each soldier “must treat comrades with dignity, respect, tolerance, and understanding”. Alan said:

I ascribed to all those values but the one I really liked was the Defence Forces’ value for so-called ‘moral courage’. This dictates that you must do what you know is right, not what is easier or popular.

“How wrong I and so many others have been over the years to think about doing what we know to be right when the reality is you will be severely punished for doing just that.

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…


“It stops now” indeed…

Delay – Deny – Die

Soldier who blew whistle on bullying left to man phone that never rings #IrishAirCorps

Soldier F made protected disclosures about bullying and victimisation in the Defence Forces that led to a Government-initiated inquiry. So why is he stuck doing a barely menial task in an office?
‘When you hear the army saying there is no more victimisation, or they are doing everything they can to stamp it out, all they need to do is pop along to the office with the phone that doesn’t ring.’

In the air corps’ Baldonnel air base, there is a little-used office filled with filing cabinets.

Every day Soldier F, who cannot be named or quoted because he is a serving soldier, comes into the office, takes his jacket off, sits down, and waits for the phone to ring.

However, not only does the phone never ring, but, according to a close friend of his, even if it did, nobody would hear his voice because the phone doesn’t work properly.

He knows this because the few times the phone has rung, he has picked it up and the person at the end of the line keeps asking if anybody is there.

It’s hard to fathom that the Defence Forces would pay an experienced soldier, once tasked with commanding men in Lebanon, to answer a phone that never rings. According to his friend, he believes it is because he has stood up for himself and others who were bullied and victimised in the Defence Forces.

He has lodged a number of protected disclosures about mistreatment, assaults, and victimisation.

It was Soldier F’s evidence that led to a Government-initiated inquiry into the Defence Forces Cadet School.

This inquiry predated the Women of Honour expose by just over a year and was one of a raft of reports pointing to a culture of overt misogyny among Defence Forces officers.

His evidence led Government-appointed barrister Frances Meenan, who headed that inquiry, to remark that Defence Forces policies in relation to employment equality, and bullying at work need “major reconsideration and redrafting”.

This was, said Meenan, because “they are not fit for purpose in the modern era of employment”.

The last engagement Soldier F had with any State-initiated investigation into irregularities in the Defence Forces was the recent Independent Review Group panel probe that was set up after RTÉ’s Women of Honour programme.

While panel members were shocked at much of what Soldier F had to say to them behind closed doors, he is, according to his friend, another one of the many who gave evidence who now feel cold-shouldered by the State.

Read full article by Neil Michael on Irish Examiner website…


This article shows the type of mistreatment that personnel who highlight wrongdoing in the Irish Air Corps are are subjected to. Time after time they are marked out for humiliation & bullying until they leave the service.

The Air Corps can act with impunity in cases like this because, firstly, unlike civilian workplaces, they are exempt from constructive dismissal legislation and secondly, because a succession of Ministers for Defence, including Micheál Martin, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar & Paul Kehoe have shown that they have been more than happy to look the other way & allow such bullying behaviour to continue unchecked.

“It stops now” indeed…

Delay – Deny – Die

Watch & read Leo Varadkar the Taoiseach & then Minister for Defence, deny healthcare life saving healthcare initiatives for survivors of the Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Exposure Scandal way back in 2018

Watch Leo Varadkar, then Taoiseach & Minister for Defence, deny calls for healthcare for survivors of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy when requested by Aengus O’Snodaigh of Sinn Fein.

Varadkar gaslights survivors by claiming that Air Corps personnel were dying of everyday illnesses that most people will experience. However he ignores the young age of 48 that Air Corps personnel have been dying at.

Varadkar believes that the courts are the best place to assess the evidence of needless toxic chemical exposure of Irish Air Corps personnel by hearing all the evidence while the Minister, the Department of Defence and the Air Corps fight tooth and nail to make sure that all the evidence is not available to the plaintiffs.

By turning a medical issue into a legal issue Varadkar callously condemns those with on inclination to take legal action to unmitigated suffering and possibly an preventable early death.

Transcript 7th February 2018

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh – Sinn Fein

Seven cases are being taken against the State by current and former serving members of the Air Corps. They believe that they have been forced to take this action by the State’s failure to protect them from their exposure to toxic chemicals during their service, which led to serious, chronic and fatal illnesses, including cancer. While those cases will ultimately be dealt with by the courts, that does not prevent the State from taking action. As early as the 1990s, numerous State-commissioned reports highlighted health and safety concerns about chemical exposure at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, but no action was taken at the time. In fact, these reports mysteriously disappeared or were ordered to be shredded. Even after litigation commenced in 2013, basic health and safety precautions were not implemented at Baldonnel. It appears it was only after the Health and Safety Authority conducted an inspection in 2016 that personnel were provided with basic precautions like personal protection equipment such as gloves and overalls.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of personnel who have passed through Baldonnel may be suffering from chronic and even fatal illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals during their service. There is also a possibility that family members have been affected, as evidence suggests that there is a higher rate of a variety of health conditions among spouses and children, including stillbirths and miscarriages. The Government has taken no action to find out the extent of this scandal or to ascertain how many people might be suffering as a result of it. Instead, it is fighting tooth and nail through the courts to force sick people to take gruelling journeys in search of justice. By comparison, the Australian Government has set up a board of inquiry to conduct a thorough investigation into similar matters. It commissioned a survey of health outcomes for the relevant personnel and their families and put in place a health care system for those who were affected.

As the Taoiseach knows, a protected disclosure from one of the whistleblowers was recently released publicly. It makes for harrowing reading. It lists 56 deaths of former serving Air Corps personnel at an average age of 48. All of the cases listed relate specifically to people who died before they reached the age of 66. The disclosure is based on research done by the whistleblower in the absence of any State-funded investigation into these matters, but it is by no means exhaustive. I believe another number of deaths have been identified since it was published. It is clear that successive Governments have failed in their duty of care to the men and women who served in the Air Corps. This Government has an opportunity to do the right thing. We do not want to be here in ten years’ time with a higher death toll, having failed to address this scandal. Has the Taoiseach read the disclosure? Has he responded to the whistleblower in question? Does he accept that the time has come to order a full inquiry into these matters?

Leo Varadkar – Taoiseach & Minister for Defence  – Fine Gael

As the Deputy said, a number of cases are currently before the courts. While I have absolutely no doubt that the serious ill-health suffered by some former members of the Air Corps is real, it has not been proven whether this array of illnesses could be caused by chemical exposure. Obviously, these cases will be heard in the courts, which will hear all the evidence and, on that basis, make a determination on the claim or allegation that all of these illnesses were caused by chemical exposure. I think that is the right way for this to proceed. The health and well-being of men and women of the Air Corps are, of course, matters of huge concern and interest for the Government.

The Minister of State has ensured that allegations relating to exposure to chemical and toxic substances while working in Baldonnell were independently reviewed. Before considering any further steps, the Minister of State has asked those who made the disclosures for their views. He is examining options for next steps in the process in light of the views he has received from those who made the allegations in the context of ongoing litigation.

The independent report considers the Defence Forces’ health and safety regime and its current policy and application. In respect of historic matters, as litigation had commenced before protected disclosures were made, the report states that the courts are now the most appropriate forum for such matters to be assessed and are the best place to assess all the evidence. Although the report finds that the Defence Forces’ regime appears to be capable of meeting the statutory requirements, it makes a number of observations, including in respect of documentation, health surveillance and exposure monitoring. It also observes that the Health and Safety Authority is the appropriate statutory body to deal with such allegations.

Separately, and in parallel to this independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps has continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority to improve its health and safety regime. It should be noted that there is a significant overlap between the recommendations of the HSA and those of the independent reviewer. The military authorities have informed the Minister of State that the HSA has formally noted the high level of co-operation received from the Air Corps and the considerable progress made to date by the Defence Forces towards the implementation of safety management systems for the control of hazardous substances.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh – Sinn Fein

There is no denying that things are better in the Air Corps. However, what the Taoiseach has just read out does not in any way address the legacy of bad management and a bad health and safety record there. I do not know if the Taoiseach remembers that he is also Minister for Defence. He has a direct responsibility to look into these matters. He is also a medical doctor and will understand the list of illnesses that has been provided to his Minister of State, which includes very serious and often fatal conditions, as the other disclosure indicated. We do not know how many people have been exposed in an unprotected way because nobody has carried out a survey. The Australians did not wait for the courts to adjudicate fully, they acted immediately.

There is a list of chemicals, albeit a partial one, which was given to Deputy Lisa Chambers. How many of the people involved have been exposed? As the Taoiseach is aware, if a doctor does not know what people have been exposed to, he cannot help, diagnose, prescribe or direct medical procedures. This is about saving lives. Will the Taoiseach act now not in respect of the specific cases but on the legacy of all of those who are suffering in the general public?

Leo Varadkar – Taoiseach & Minister for Defence  – Fine Gael

The Deputy is absolutely correct; I am Minister for Defence. The Government has delegated responsibility for defence matters to the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, whom I fully trust to deal with this issue appropriately.

I am a medical doctor and have seen the list of illnesses that these former members of the Air Corps and their families have suffered. It is a very long and extensive list of illnesses, including the most common illnesses which most people may encounter, namely, cancer, cardiovascular disease, suicide and miscarriages by their partners. As a medical doctor, it is not possible for me to say if exposure to chemicals caused all or any of these illnesses because they are commonplace in the community at large. **If it was one specific illness resulting from a known chemical that caused such an illness, that would be one thing. These are not the allegations that are being made, however. There is litigation before the courts, which are best placed to assess the evidence and see whether the allegations are supported by it.

Delay – Deny – Die

Untimely* deaths of serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel

  • 104 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980
  • 91 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 66 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
  • 12% of cancer deaths are specifically pancreatic cancer
  • 9% of cancer deaths are spcifically glioblastomas of the brain
  • 30% of deaths are cardiac related
  • 20% of cardiac deaths are specifically cardiomyopathy
  • 14% 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.

** Thousands of officer, enlisted & civillian personnel, some only children, were exposed to hundreds of dangerous chemicals on a daily basis at Baldonnel & Gormanston over many decades. This occured without informed consent, without any chemmical Health & Safety training, in most instances without even basic PPE and in many instances without the knowledge of those being exposed. 

It is simply impossible for such a mass exposure to cause  one specific illness. The Taoiseach was simply using his position as a doctor to gaslight survivors.