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

“A force to be reckoned with” how the State Claims Agency have skin in the game of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure scandal!

Health and Safety Times Issue 19 2007

A Force to be Reckoned With

The Defence Forces (DF) has become the first State organisation to have its safety management systems validated in an audit carried out by the State Claims Agency (SCA). The independent audit, which was carried out throughout 2006, is based on best practice standards such as OHSAS 18001, HS(G)65, AIRMIC and AS/NZS 4360:24.

At the presentation of health and safety compliance certificates to various DF units, Armn Billy Galligan’s photo shows (l-r): Col Brendan Farrelly (DDFT); Comdt Bob Corbett (DF H&S Offr); Gemma D’Arcy, lead investigator, SCA; Col Paul Pakenham (DFHQ); Maj Gen Dermot Earley (D COS Sp); Adrian Kearns (director, SCA); Brig Gen Pat O Sullivan (GOC DFTC); Pat Kirwan (head of risk and operations, SCA); Brig Gen Chris Moore (A COS Sp) and Lt Col ??

Certificates of compliance were awarded on 27th February (2007), verifying that proper health and safety management structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces.

A photograph taken in December 2007, the year after the State Claims Agency initial audits, showing cresylic acid and hexavalent chromium running down the walls. This was 10 months after Certificates of Compliance were awarded verifying that proper health & safety structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces. The small barrel dissolving itself contains hydrofluoric acid.

“The audit involved an examination of the safety management systems in Defence Forces headquarters, each of the six Defence Forces formations of East, West, South, the Defence Forces Training Centre (Curragh Camp), the Naval Service and Air Corps and in 16 units selected by the auditors from throughout the Defence Forces,” explained Comdt Bob Corbet, staff officer, health and safety.

This was the first time that DF safety systems had been audited. Over the last few years, the Forces had put in place various initiatives to improve its safety management systems and it was felt that these would satisfy the SCA requirements. “Firstly, we computerised our accident and incident reporting and administrative systems and that facilitated the gathering of accident and incident information, which in turn facilitated accident investigation,” explained Corbet. “We wanted to be in a position to comply with the 2005 legislation before it actually came into force.

The collapse of a technician in 2015 while preparing a Pilatus for the 1916 centenary commemoration fly-past and the subsequent chemical induced pneumonia caused to an NCO who came to the technician’s aid was the trigger for a complaint to the Health & Safety Authority. Neither injuries in this  incident were reported to the HSA as mandated by law. So much for the computerisation of accident and incident reporting.

AUDIT PROCESS

Once all these systems were in place, the State Claims Agency began its audit, which took almost a year. Pat Kirwan, head of risk and operations with the SCA, was one of the auditors, along with Gemma D’Arcy, lead risk manager. The State Claims Agency was established under the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000. “Our remit includes the provision of risk management advices to the State authorities in order to prevent claims against the State,” explained Kirwan.

“With larger State authorities like the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, the Dept of Agriculture and the Irish Prison Service, we establish Risk Management Liaison Groups, so we can work in conjunction and consultation with them on risk management issues. We’ve a very claims focused view.”

Photo of dichloromethane (DCM) as stored by Irish Air Corps in 2015. DCM, which is metabolized in the liver as carbon monoxide after inhalation, was banned in the EU in 2012. DCM is capable of a range of health effects that the Air Corps were aware of such as cardiotoxicity & neurotoxicity. In 1995 an independent Air Quality investigation was commissioned by Capt. (now Lt. Col.) John Maloney at Engine Repair Flight. This investigation found DCM levels as high as 175ppm when the safe limit was 50ppm. Personnel who worked in ERF we never informed of this adverse finding nor the danger to their health.

When the SCA began its audit of the Defence Forces, it looked at the main issues which it felt could lead to large numbers of claims. “We then looked at the management process within the Defence Forces because, in order to have advices and recommendations adopted and effect real change, the systems for managing change and managing risk also had to be examined,” Kirwan continued.

According to Kirwan, the Defence Forces lead the way in health and safety risk management. “We see risk management systems accreditations as the way forward; it’s very much in keeping with the requirements of the 2005 Act and good risk management and claims management practice,” he said. “The SCA audit system is based on the OHSAS 18001, HS(G)65, AIRMIC and AS/NZS 4360:24 systems and has similar criteria. We’re experts in  these areas and we can say to the Defence Forces, as an independent body, that we feel that its systems meet best practice standards. The audit is a way of driving improvement, getting people interested and awarding achievement as well.”

It should be noted that personnel in the Risk Management Section of the State Claims Agency were eligible for  performance related gratuities aka “bonus pay” for improvements in the risk profile of organisations under their remit. Improvements that were so extensive Irish Air Corps personnel were still collapsing from lack of PPE a decade into State Claims Agency oversight.

Seán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
141. To ask the Minister for Finance if personnel employed by the State Claims Agency branch of the National Treasury Management Agency are eligible for bonus payments; and if so, the way in which these bonuses are structured and attained. [51615/17]

Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has informed me that it operates a discretionary performance-related payments scheme for eligible employees, which includes staff assigned to the State Claims Agency. The scheme rewards exceptional performance having regard to the employee’s own performance, the performance of the employee’s area of responsibility and the overall performance of the NTMA. Performance-related payments are made in accordance with parameters approved by the Agency’s non-executive Remuneration Committee. The overall amount of performance related payments made in respect of any year is also subject to the approval of the Remuneration Committee.

https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2017-12-05/141/#pq_141

The audit took the best part of a year because the SCA auditors had to sample the Forces’ key functions that impact on health and safety such as training, operations, procurement, engineering, buildings and the input of senior officers. The SCA audited the safety function in all the formations within the Forces, including the three army brigades, the Defence Forces Training Centre (Curragh), the Air Corps, the Naval Service and the Defence Forces’ Headquarters. “We then sampled at least two but usually three units on the ground within each of the formations, so a total of 16 units were audited,” explained Kirwan.

The audit examined safety policy and documentation; training; objective setting and planning; methods of monitoring and checking on progress; and methodologies for audit and review of systems. Essentially, it validated that the Defence Forces has in place the necessary systems to ensure continuous improvement in occupational health and safety standards.

The Defence Forces got the results of the audit just before Christmas, which was a relief to Corbet as he was due to leave for a six-month tour of duty to Kosovo in early April. “It was great to know the outcome before I headed off,” he said. “The criteria are quite strict and it was very satisfying to have our risk management systems recognised and accredited. There was quite a bit of work involved in it and it took a lot of commitment, and it was a lot of work for the auditors, too. We really appreciated their feedback”

A recently installed outdoor gymnasium at Baldonnel, ironically installed on the site of the old Engine Repair Flight. As can be seen in this photo the outdoor training area used by men & women of the Air Corps is located approximately 10 meters from the exhaust of the Spray Paint facility which exhausts such toxic vapors as benzene, toluene, xylene, hexavalent chromium & hexamethylene diisocyanate to name put a few.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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]

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]

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 SCA will return to the Defence Forces this year (2007) to carry out a maintenance audit. This time, the auditors will examine a smaller sample of functions but will look at some in more detail.

“We got nothing but the utmost cooperation from DF personnel over the course of the audit. They’ve taken a very pro-active approach,” said Pat  Kirwan. “After dealing with the Defence Forces for a period of time, we recognised that it was at the stage where, with a certain amount of work, it would very quickly meet the best practice international standards. When the Defence Forces sets about doing something, it tends to be done correctly,” he concluded.

Health and Safety Times Issue 19 2007 – A Force to be Reckoned With

This post is based upon an article written by Mary Anne Kenny and was published in  Health & Safety Times issue 19 of 2007. A PDF of the complete article may be downloaded here.

To recap a quick timeline of the Irish Air Corps toxic chemical exposure tragedy and the State Claims Agency’s involvement.

  • August 1995 – Irish Air Corps receive report of an “Ambient Air Monitoring for Health & Safety at Work” commissioned by Capt. (now Lt. Col.) John Maloney. The independent report found that airborne levels of dichloromethane were detected at levels of 175ppm when the safe level was 50ppm. No action was taken to remedy this danger and personnel were not informed of the adverse test outcome.
  • January 1997 – Irish Air Corps receive a further report “Monitoring Air Contaminants in Work Shops” which was commissioned by Lt. (now Comdt.) Colin Roche. This testing was carried out by state body Forbairt. This report also found numerous health & safety shortcomings and recommended personnel be issued with adequate PPE and provided with chemical handling training. The Irish Air Corps finally said they would comply with this by December 2017 after HSA instructed them to do so a mere 20 years later. Hundreds were unnecessarily exposed in the intervening two decades.
  • 2006 – The State Claims Agency commenced continuous Health & Safety auditing of the Irish Air Corps
  • February 2007 – The State Claims Agency validated the Defence Forces Safety Management Systems to be in accordance with best practice standards such as OHSAS 18001, HS(G)65, AIRMIC and AS/NZS 4360:24. Certificates of compliance were awarded verifying that proper health and safety management structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces.
  • January 2014 – Legal cases commence against the Irish Air Corps alleging injuries caused by unprotected chemical exposure.
  • February 2014 – Irish Air Corps conduct their own internal retrospective investigation into ERF facility. Also shortly after the first legal case commenced State Claims Agency officials met with former ERF personnel at the Apprentice Hostel Auditorium at Casement Aerodrome. At this meeting the State Claims Agency discovered that the lack of risk assessments, lack of PPE and lack of chemical handling training was a LIVE issue and not a legacy issue as previously believed. At this point the State Claims Agency had the opportunity to alert the HSA to these failing and have ongoing needless exposure stopped. However, for reasons unknown, the State Claims Agency chose not to intervene to stop ongoing exposure. Not their job apparently.
  • November 2015  – Two technicians are injured by an unprotected exposure to n-hexane solvent while installing smoke generators into a Pilatus PC9m. This incident was not notified to the HSA as they are legally obliged.
  • November 2015 – PDFORRA National Health & Safety officer wrote to the DF SO Health & Safety Re: Concerns about the provision of adequate health surveillance for members in the Irish Air Corps
  • December 2015 – Serving & former Irish Air Corps personnel made complaints to the HSA as well as Protected Disclosures to Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney alleging wholesale breaches of the 1989 & 2005 Health & Safety at Work Acts. Breaches alleged included lack of chemical risk assessments, lack of job specific health surveillance, lack of PPE, lack of chemical handling training, lack of reporting of incidents, lack of reporting of spillages, disposal of toxic chemicals by dumping in the ground and pouring down sinks etc.
  • January 2016 – Health & Safety Authority commenced an investigation into the Irish Air Corps at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
  • June 2016 – The Head of Department, Dept of Mechanical Aeronautical and Biomedical Engineering in the University of Limerick was alerted to the fact that scores of UL students seconded to Casement Aerodrome on work experience were likely exposed to a dangerous working environment. The response was “Please do not contact me or my office again”.
  • October 2016 – Another protected Disclosure was made to Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett alleging that a highly dangerous chemical, Ardrox 666, which contained dichloromethane, sodium chromate & cresylic acid had been dumped in the ground for years where Main Technical Stores was subsequently built. The Chief of Staff was also alerted to health problems suffered by personnel of MTS (& their children) that could possibly be linked to exposure. No action was taken on foot of this Protected Disclosure.
  • October 2016 – Health & Safety Authority issue report of their investigation of the Irish Air Corps and brought to their attention safety, health & welfare matters that they asked receive the Irish Air Corps “immediate attention”. The HSA warned the Irish Air Corps that if their advice was not heeded they could face further enforcement action including prosecution.
  • September 2017 – Health & Safety Authority write to Irish Air Corps recognising the high level of co-operation “and to acknowledge the considerable progress made towards the implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances that meets commendable standards”.
  • January 2018 – Protected disclosure made to Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe listing 56 verified untimely deaths of serving & former Air Corps personnel who had died at or before age 66. This list excluded those who died from accidents or murder.
  • September 2018 – Health & Safety Authority “close the file” on Irish Air Corps opened three years earlier in December 2015.

Initial letter from Health & Safety authority to Irish Air Corps may be downloaded here. The Safety Data Sheet for Ardrox 666 may be downloaded here.

*****

Hopefully the above article provides readers a good overview of the involvement of the State Claims Agency in the auditing of Irish Air Corps Health & Safety.

The lead case in legal actions against the state was commenced in January 2014 and after judgements in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and a five judge sitting of the Supreme Court the case is now in its 8th year of legal discovery.

In the case of Gavin Tobin versus the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General the Judgment of Mr. Justice Clarke, Chief Justice, delivered the 15th July, 2019 can be read here

 

Epigenetic Harm and the Irish Army Air Corps

Epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. The Greek prefix epi- (ἐπι- “over, outside of, around”) in epigenetics implies features that are “on top of” or “in addition to” the traditional genetic basis for inheritance. Epigenetics most often denotes changes that affect gene activity and expression, but can also be used to describe any heritable phenotypic change. Such effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits may result from external or environmental factors, or be part of normal developmental program. The standard definition of epigenetics requires these alterations to be heritable, either in the progeny of cells or of organisms.

The term also refers to the changes themselves: functionally relevant changes to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence. Examples of mechanisms that produce such changes are DNA methylation and histone modification, each of which alters how genes are expressed without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Gene expression can be controlled through the action of repressor proteins that attach to silencer regions of the DNA.

These epigenetic changes may last through cell divisions for the duration of the cell’s life, and may also last for multiple generations even though they do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave (or “express themselves”) differently.

Read the full article on Wikipedia

Mental Health and the Irish Air Corp illness cluster

A new report by Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health in Ireland, has found strong public support for increased State investment in mental health services.

A survey carried out by the coalition found that 84% of respondents thought that the health service places too little focus on mental health.

The study found that the public are willing to invest more in mental healthcare when compared to other related healthcare programmes.

Mental Health Reform says staffing in mental health services is lower now than it was in 2008 and it is calling on the Government to boost investment in the area.

Note the graph below only includes personnel for whom we have death certificates for. We are in the process of verifying many more deaths, most of which relate to the earlier decades.

*****

Prevention is better than cure.

If the government bother to medically & scientifically investigate the mental health illness cluster at the #IrishAirCorps where at least 13 serving & former personnel have killed themselves since 1980 they might learn something about environmental causes & triggers of mental health problems.

We suspect hydrocarbon fuels, engine exhausts, isocyanates, VOCs etc all have a part to play and the civilian population get exposed to these too but usually at lower levels.

So far the state have only sent in barristers. Think about it 65 men dead at an average age of 49 years and all the state can mobilise is barristers.

In the absence of military or government statistics on untimely deaths in the Irish Air Corps we created our own. We are happy to have these tested or even proven wrong by better statistics gathered by the state in a comprehensive, open and transparent manner. #WeAreNotStatisticians

Dáil Éireann Debates 07/02/18 – Leaders Questions on Irish Air Corps Toxic Chemical Scandal

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, 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 (Dublin West, 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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, 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 (Dublin West, 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.

*****

We will follow up the above Dáil debate with a critique of the misleading statements by the Taoiseach, Dr. Leo Varadkar in due course.

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Statistics for Dr. Leo Varadkar showing untimely deaths of Irish Air Corps personnel

A graph showing untimely deaths of men who served in the Irish Air Corps. We are counting those that died since 1980 (arbitrary) and who died on or before age 66 (state pension age).

On Wednesday the 7th of February 2018 in Dáil Éireann, Taoiseach, Dr. Leo Varadkar, said the place to investigate Irish Air Corps related deaths & illnesses was the Irish courts system and also bizarrely questioned why thousands of exposed personnel, exposed to hundreds of different toxic chemicals didn’t all get the same cancer?

Note the graph below only includes personnel for whom we have death certificates for. We are in the process of verifying approximately 30 more deaths, many of which relate to the earlier decades.

In the absence of military or government statistics on untimely deaths in the Irish Air Corps we created our own. We are happy to have these tested or even proven wrong by better statistics gathered by the state in a comprehensive, open and transparent manner. #WeAreNotStatisticians

Leo Varadkar urged to act on Air Corps chemical exposure ‘legacy’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he believes the courts should decide whether former Air Corps staff are suffering chronic illnesses due to chemical exposure.

Mr Varadkar made the comments yesterday in the Dáil where Sinn Féin Defence Spokesperson Aengus O’Snodaigh repeated calls for a health study of Air Corps members, similar to an analysis of Australian Air Force staff, which found technicians who worked with carcinogenic chemicals were at greater risk of illness.

Last year, the Irish Examiner revealed the State is facing a number of claims from former staff, and that whistleblowers had raised concerns about the safety of workers using chemicals at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

“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,” Mr Varadkar said.

“There is litigation in the courts, which are the best place to assess the evidence and see whether the allegations are supported by that evidence,” he said.

Mr O’Snodaigh said a survey is needed as the implications of widespread staff exposure to the chemicals used goes beyond the seven cases currently against the State. “We do not want to be here in 10 years’ time with a higher death toll, having failed to address this scandal,”he said.

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

Delay – Deny – Die

The vast majority of Irish Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors are not currently engaged in legal action. For these serving and former personnel the Taoiseach is offering them no respite, not assistance and no hope.

European Commission – Pregnant Worker Directive 92/85/EC

Directive 92/85/EC – Pregnant Workers

Introduced 19th of October 1992

Pregnant woman standing outside on a sunny day

Objective

The objective of this Directive is to protect the health and safety of women in the workplace when pregnant or after they have recently given birth and women who are breastfeeding.

Contents

Under the Directive, a set of guidelines detail the assessment of the chemical, physical and biological agents and industrial processes considered dangerous for the health and safety of pregnant women or women who have just given birth and are breast feeding.

The Directive also includes provisions for physical movements and postures, mental and physical fatigue and other types of physical and mental stress.

Pregnant and breastfeeding workers may under no circumstances be obliged to perform duties for which the assessment has revealed a risk of exposure to agents, which would jeopardize their safety or health. Those agents and working conditions are defined in Annex II of the Directive.

Member States shall ensure that pregnant workers are not obliged to work in night shifts when medically indicated (subject to submission of a medical certificate).

Employers or the health and safety service will use these guidelines as a basis for a risk evaluation for all activities that pregnant or breast feeding workers may undergo and must decide what measures should be taken to avoid these risks. Workers should be notified of the results and of measures to be taken which can be adjustment of working conditions, transfer to another job or granting of leave.

The Directive grants maternity leave for the duration of 14 weeks of which 2 weeks must occur before birth.

Women must not be dismissed from work because of their pregnancy and maternity for the period from the beginning of their pregnancy to the end of the period of leave from work.

Annex I – Non exhaustive list of agents and working conditions referred to in Art.4 of the directive (assessment and information)

A. Agents

1. Physical agents where these are regarded as agents causing foetal lesions and/or likely to disrupt placental attachment, and in particular:

(a) shocks, vibration or movement;

(b) handling of loads entailing risks, particularly of a dorsolumbar nature;

(c) noise;

(d) ionizing radiation (*);

(e) non-ionizing radiation;

(f) extremes of cold or heat;

(g) movements and postures, travelling – either inside or outside the establishment – mental and physical fatigue and other physical burdens connected with the activity of the worker within the meaning of Article 2 of the Directive.

2. Biological agents

Biological agents of risk groups 2, 3 and 3 within the meaning of Article 2 (d) numbers 2, 3 and 4 of Directive 90/679/EEC (¹), in so far as it is known that these agents or the therapeutic measures necessitated by such agents endanger the health of pregnant women and the unborn child and in so far as they do not yet appear in Annex II.

3. Chemical agents

The following chemical agents in so far as it is known that they endanger the health of pregnant women and the unborn child and in so far as they do not yet appear in Annex II:

(a) substances labelled R40 (limited evidence of a carcinogenic effect), R45 (May cause cancer), R46 (May cause inheritable genetic damage), and R47 (May cause birth defects) under Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548/EEC) in so far as they do not yet appear in Annex II;

(b) chemical agents in Annex I to Directive 90/394/EEC (Protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens) ;

(c) mercury and mercury derivatives;

(d) antimitotic drugs;

(e) carbon monoxide;

(f) chemical agents of known and dangerous percutaneous absorption.

B. Processes

Industrial processes listed in Annex I to Directive 90/394/EEC.

C. Working conditions

Underground mining work.

Annex II – Non exhaustive list of agents and working conditions referred to in Art.6 of the directive (cases in which exposure is prohibited)

A. Pregnant workers within the meaning of Article 2 (a)

1. Agents

(a) Physical agents

Work in hyperbaric atmosphere, e.g. pressurized enclosures and underwater diving.

(b) Biological agents

The following biological agents:

– toxoplasma,

– rubella virus,

unless the pregnant workers are proved to be adequately protected against such agents by immunization.

(c) Chemical agents

Lead and lead derivatives in so far as these agents are capable of being absorbed by the human organism.

2. Working conditions

Underground mining work.

B. Workers who are breastfeeding within the meaning of Article 2 (c)

1. Agents

(a) Chemical agents

Lead and lead derivatives in so far as these agents are capable of being absorbed by the human organism.

2. Working conditions

Underground mining work.

*****

The Irish Army Air Corps only started carrying out “adequate” risk assessments in the past year so for 25 years pregnant females at Baldonnel were dangerously exposed to Carcinogens, Mutagens & Teratogens.

Any pregnant females working in proximity to running aircraft or aircraft being refueled, such as in the ramp area, or downwind of the ramp were exposed.

  • Exhaust gasses contain Carbon Monoxide as well as TetraEthyl Lead and other hydrocarbon fumes.
  • AVGAS – 100LL  refuelling fumes contained Gasoline, Tetraethyl Lead, Toluene, Xylene, Ethylbenzene, Cyclohexane, n-Hexane, Trimethylbenzene, Naphthalene and Isopropylbenzene.
  • AVTUR – Jet A1 refueling fumes contain Kerosine, Ethylbenzene, Xylene and Isopropylbenzene.
  • Fuel System Anti Icing additives used by the Irish Army Air Corps included 2-(2-methoxyethoxy)ethanol which is a known to cause reproductive and developmental toxic effects.

Furthermore pregnant females working in or entering into Avionics, ERF or Engineering Wing hangar were being exposed to further known Carcinogens, Mutagens and Teratogens including Dichloromethane, Isocyanates & Trichloroethylene to name but a few.

Due to the fact that the working dress & overalls of technicians were (and still are) brought home to be washed in domestic family washing machines it is extremely likely that pregnant spouses & partners of Air Corps personnel were also affected.

This may have lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, lifelong genetic diseases & developmental conditions such as autism in the children of personnel.

Minister of state for defence to probe whistle blower dismissal claim

Minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe has said he has written to the Defence Forces seeking a report on claims that an Air Corps whistle-blower is facing dismissal and that documents key to legal cases against the State were deliberately shredded.

The Irish Examiner recently reported that two separate whistle-blowers told Mr Kehoe that a Defence Forces official ordered the destruction of health and safety reports that showed that the Air Corps’ management of the use of hazardous chemicals was lacking.

On Monday, this newspaper revealed that one of these whistle-blowers is now facing dismissal from the Defence Forces.

In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Kehoe confirmed he was informed of the allegations.

“Certain allegations were made that the documents were destroyed,” Mr Kehoe confirmed.

“I have requested a report from the Chief of Staff on the actions taken on foot of the accusation. When the report is to hand I will consider what further steps may be required to take.

“I didn’t destroy any reports, nor am I aware of anyone destroying any reports but I have asked the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces to investigate this matter, to find out about these reports and what happened them and to the reasons why they are not kept on record in the Defence Forces.

“Regarding the individual in the Defence Forces and a dismissal, I only became aware of this, I don’t want to say an exact date, but I’ve asked for a report on that issue.”

Mr Kehoe angrily rejected opposition party suggestions that the Government has been slow to address the matter.

Read more on the Irish Examiner website