Human Health Effects of Trichloroethylene: Key Findings and Scientific Issues

Abstract

Background

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.

Objective

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

Methods

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.

Discussion

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.

Conclusion

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

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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*

Organic solvents and Multiple Sclerosis susceptibility

Abstract

Photo of dichloromethane (DCM) as stored by Irish Air Corps in 2015. DCM was banned in the EU in 2012.
Objective

We hypothesize that different sources of lung irritation may contribute to elicit an immune reaction in the lungs and subsequently lead to multiple sclerosis (MS) in people with a genetic susceptibility to the disease. We aimed to investigate the influence of exposure to organic solvents on MS risk, and a potential interaction between organic solvents and MS risk human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes.

Methods

Using a Swedish population-based case-control study (2,042 incident cases of MS and 2,947 controls), participants with different genotypes, smoking habits, and exposures to organic solvents were compared regarding occurrence of MS, by calculating odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals using logistic regression. A potential interaction between exposure to organic solvents and MS risk HLA genes was evaluated by calculating the attributable proportion due to interaction.

Results

Overall, exposure to organic solvents increased the risk of MS (odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.2–1.8, p = 0.0004). Among both ever and never smokers, an interaction between organic solvents, carriage of HLA-DRB1*15, and absence of HLA-A*02 was observed with regard to MS risk, similar to the previously reported gene-environment interaction involving the same MS risk HLA genes and smoke exposure.

Conclusion

The mechanism linking both smoking and exposure to organic solvents to MS risk may involve lung inflammation with a proinflammatory profile. Their interaction with MS risk HLA genes argues for an action of these environmental factors on adaptive immunity, perhaps through activation of autoaggressive cells resident in the lungs subsequently attacking the CNS.

Read full study below

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Anecdotal evidence has been emerging for some time of potential illness clusters at Casement Aerodrome to which Multiple Sclerosis has now been added. We are calling for these potential clusters to be investigated by competent authorities.

Suspected illness clusters currently include.

Illnesses linked to dichloromethane aka DCM aka methylene chloride

CAS number: 75-09-2

Diseases linked to this toxicant grouped by strength of evidence.

Photo of DCM-based paint stripper as used by the Irish Air Corps in 2015. An EU ban on the use of DCM-based paint strippers came into force three years earlier on the 6th of June 2012.

Strong Evidence

  • Arrhythmias*
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)*

Good Evidence

  • Brain cancer – adult*
  • Fetotoxicity (miscarriage / spontaneous abortion, stillbirth)*
  • Reduced fertility – male (infertility and subfertility)*

Limited Evidence

  • Breast cancer*
  • Hepatocellular cancer (liver cancer)
  • Lung cancer*
  • Pancreatic cancer*
  • Peripheral neuropathy*
  • Prostate cancer*

Illnesses marked thus * have been suffered by Irish Air Corps personnel or their offspring.

Five years on from protected disclosures Air Corps whistleblowers still ‘waiting for justice’

IT IS NOW five years since former members of the Air Corps submitted protected disclosures detailing allegations that they became unwell due to their exposure to dangerous chemicals at Baldonnel Airfield.

Since then, whistleblower Gavin Tobin and several of his colleagues have been trying to have their full case heard in the courts. Tobin is currently involved in litigation against the State. That remains in the discovery phase as Tobin waits for more files to be handed over.

Last July (2019), a five-panel Supreme Court hearing unanimously found in favour of Tobin, meaning the State must now disclose documents outlining any chemicals that Tobin may have been exposed to while working at the airfield between 1990 and 1999.

Tobin has been continuing to log what he has described as the untimely deaths of his colleagues. Of the 85 deaths he has cited, five relate to the 1980s seven to the 1990s and the rest have taken place since 2000.

Tobin also contacted then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in 2017, when Varadkar also held the Defence portfolio. Tobin said: “Subsequent protected disclosures to Varadkar were either ignored or forwarded to then Junior Minister Paul Kehoe.

“Absolutely nothing has been done to provide targeted healthcare for exposed personnel since this date despite damning findings by the HSA which the Department of Defence continue to try to downplay.”

The average age of death of the cases recorded by Tobin stands at 50 years old. Tobin believes the number of deaths from chemical exposure could be as high as 100.

The 2016 HSA report warned the Air Corps it could face prosecution if it did not “comply with advice and relevant legal requirements” about how hazardous substances were managed, among other safety matters.

The HSA’s report stated immediate attention was needed at Baldonnel and that protective equipment must be made available to staff. The necessary equipment should include protective gear for eyes and hands, as well as respirators to protect against inhalation of toxic fumes.

The whistle-blowers in this case alleges there was a disregard for the safety of young Air Corps members. According to an online resource created for those who believe they were affected by the chemical exposure, there was:

  • No meaningful chemical risk assessments.
  • No risk specific health surveillance
  • No Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) issued
  • No chemical health and safety training whatsoever
  • No reporting of health and safety incidents
  • No follow up of unusual illnesses by medical personnel
  • Ignoring dangerous air quality reports
  • Personnel doused in toxic chemicals as pranks (hazing) incidents
  • Highly toxic chemicals disposed of onsite in an unsafe manner

Read full article on The Journal website below…

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To be clear, the original Protected Disclosure made in November 2015 was to make Minister Simon Coveney aware that chemical health & safety at the Irish Air Corps was completely sub standard and an ongoing threat to the health of the men & women who worked there & their families. 

The appalling working conditions that Tobin alleges harmed his health in the 1990s still prevailed in 2015. Since his Protected Disclosure his and other whistle-blower allegations of poor chemical health & safety work practices have been vindicated by both the Health & Safety Authority and the “Independent Third Party Investigator” appointed by Minister Paul Kehoe. 

The priorities of the Air Corps Chemical Abuse Survivors are firstly to prevent further unnecessary loss of life amongst survivors and secondly to improve the quality of life of survivors by reducing unnecessary suffering. Both the Royal Australian Air Force & the Armed forces of the Netherlands have offered templates as to how to approach unfortunate workplace chemical exposure issues with competence, fairness, justice & urgency.

At no point have ACCAS nor any of the whistle-blowers sought any legal intervention into ongoing court cases. 

Delay – Deny – Die

Baldonnel Bingo – Dichloromethane Edition

Baldonnel Bingo – Where only the good die young!

Who will be the champion ? ARF, Avionics, BFTS, ERF or MTS?

All the below illnesses are known* to be caused by dichloromethane (DCM) also known as methylene chloride.

DCM was banned after a vote in the European Parliament in January 2009. The ban came into place in 2011 but the Irish Air Corps were still happy to let unsuspecting personnel use DCM without PPE or training in 2015 & likely beyond.

The Irish Air Corps finally issued PPE to all personnel using chemicals in 2017 a full 20 years after being told to do so by state body Forbairt.

Click on image to download a 30 player PDF or organise a game online here

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References*

Klaassen CD, Ed. Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons, 6th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill 2001.
LaDou J, Ed. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 3rd Edition. New York: Lange Medical/McGraw-Hill Company, 2004.
Leikin JB, Davis A, Klodd DA, Thunder T, Kelafant GA, Paquette DL, Rothe MJ, Rubin R. Selected topics related to occupational exposures. Part V. Occupational cardiovascular disease. Disease-a-Month. 2000 Apr;46(4):311-322.
Lynge E, Anttila A, Hemminki K. Organic solvents and cancer. Cancer Causes and Control. 1997 May;8(3):406-19.
Rom WM. Environmental and Occupational Medicine, 3rd Edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Publishers, 1998.
Severe Optic Neuropathy Caused by Dichloromethane Inhalation
Atsushi Kobayashi, Akira Ando, Nobuko Tagami, Masahiko Kitagawa, Emi Kawai, Masako Akioka, Eiko Arai, Toshio Nakatani, Satoshi Nakano, Yoshie Matsui, and Miyo Matsumura Published Online:8 Dec 2008https://doi.org/10.1089/jop.2007.0100
Environmental and Chemical Toxins and Psychiatric Illness By James S. Brown. Publisher: American Psychiatric Association Publishing (27 Feb. 2002) Language: English ISBN-10: 0880489545

Dutch Neurologist Warns of ‘Parkinson’s Pandemic’ Linked to Toxic Chemicals

As the world frantically battles coronavirus, a leading Dutch neurologist warns of the next global pandemic — and this one, he says, is almost entirely of our own making.

Bastiaan Bloem, MD, a neurologist and professor at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, says that over the next 20 years, the number of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) will likely double — from the present 6.5 million to more than 13 million.

The main cause of this exponential jump: widespread exposure to herbicides, solvents, and other toxic chemicals used in agriculture and manufacturing.

“A pandemic, as everybody is now painfully aware, is a disease happening worldwide, to which no one is immune. PD fulfills all those criteria,” Bloem told Parkinson’s News Today in a phone interview from the Netherlands.

“Parkinson’s is now the fastest-growing neurological condition on the planet.”

Bloem, 53, points to the tight link between exposure to herbicides such as paraquat — a weed killer — and the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

“These chemicals were introduced worldwide after World War II, and many are still used today on our fields,” he said. “For this reason, farmers are at a markedly increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. If you feed a mouse paraquat — which is banned in China but not the U.S. — it will kill the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. These chemicals are tremendously toxic to the brain and have even been detected in milk, in supermarkets.”

Paraquat isn’t the only such chemical posing this risk. Trichloroethylene, a solvent used to clean metals and remove stains, has exactly the same effect on human brains. Yet it’s still widely used and is detectable in high concentrations in groundwater, he said.

“Parkinson’s is exploding in numbers, it’s a horribly debilitating disease, and it’s a costly disease that should matter to people and governments. We’re doing this to ourselves,” Bloem said. “But we can do something about it. We need to get rid of these toxic pesticides and move toward organic food. And we should take measures to protect people who work in these toxic environments.”

Read full article Parkinson’s News Today

Dutch Neurologist Warns of ‘Parkinson’s Pandemic’ Linked to Toxic Chemicals

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Trichloroethylene was used in Baldonnel for decades with ERF in particular receiving it in 220 litre drums. From ERF it was handed out without any precautions or training to anyone who asked for it. It was handed out in milk cartons, plastic coke bottles etc.

Trichloroethylene was used by all hangars & workshops in an ad-hoc basis usually with Trichloroethylene begged from ERF although some units did order it themselves. Personnel in the Air Corps museum also used Trike to help degrease parts & aircraft being restored for the museum. 

Trichloroethylene was also used by both apprentices, tech & line personnel to carry out cleaning tasks in the Air Corps Training Depot while on training courses or during “war week”.

In at least 2 separate instances some floors in ACTD were completely destroyed by the use of Trichloroethylene being left overnight to clean them. In one incident Trichloroethylene dissolved through a traditional lino floor as far as the backing twine and in another incident few years later a tiled floor was destroyed after the tiles shriveled up & shrunk after Trichloroethylene  was left overnight to clean a floor.

Trichloroethylene was also used by teenage apprentices to clean black marks off floors in the Apprentice Hostel and the Apprentice School.

At no point was anyone ever given training in the use of Trichloroethylene nor issued with appropriate PPE whilst working with the chemical.

A number of Irish Air Corps personnel have been diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease

DELAY – DENY – DIE

Minster Kehoe ‘satisfied’ with Air Corps audits

The Junior Defence Minister said he is “fully satisfied” the State Claims Agency (SCA) can adequately carry out health audits in the Air Corps despite a separate workplace safety watchdog finding a series of failings at Casement Aerodrome after a decade of annual inspections by the SCA.

Mr Kehoe gave his backing to the SCA after he told the Dáil that the agency “conducted a number of Health and Safety Management System Defence Forces audits within the Air Corps between the years 2006-2015”.

The whistle-blower complaints also prompted an independent review. In his report, the reviewer said “a problem has arisen in relation to the issues raised by the three informants because appropriate records to demonstrate compliance are not readily available”.

The SCA’s audits were not made available to the reviewer, nor was an internal Air Corps report, seen by this newspaper, which raised concerns about staff exposure to the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene.

The SCA is currently defending 21 court cases against the Air Corps, including a number from ex-personnel who say their exposure to chemicals at Casement Aerodrome led to serious illnesses.

Mr Kehoe revealed the decade of SCA audits in response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who was critical of the decision not to release reports.

“Time and time again the minister states that the health and welfare of the Defence Forces personnel is a high priority for him and the military authorities. This may be the case, but the health and welfare of all future recruits and contractors should be too,” Ms Murphy told the Irish Examiner.

“Health and Safety reports should not be shrouded in secrecy. It is an area of expertise of the Health and Safety Authority, perhaps they should really be leading on this, I question whether the State Claims Agency in the past provided an adequate service and applied robust enough tests to the working environment at Baldonnel.”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…

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In the interests of transparency, Minister Kehoe should release all the State Claims Agency Health & Safety Management System Audits of Baldonnel with immediate effect.

If the audits were carried out to an adequate standard what has Minister Kehoe got to hide?

Delay – Deny – Die

Irish Air Corps whistle-blower claims death toll from chemical-linked illnesses surpasses 72

A MAN WHO is taking the State to court over his time in the Air Corps believes 72 of his colleagues died prematurely, linking their deaths to alleged chemical exposure at work.

The recent death of a former airman has brought the alleged death toll to 72, according to the whistle-blower.

He also alleges that:

  • 72 verified deaths have occurred in total since 1980
  • 59 of these deaths have occurred since 2000
  • 36 of these deaths have occurred since 2010

The whistle-blower is claiming that the State neglected health and safety rules and exposed himself and his fellow workers to seriously harmful levels of toxic chemicals. This continues to be strongly contested by the State.

The whistle-blowers in this case alleges there was a disregard for the safety of young Air Corps members. According to an online resource created for those who believe they were affected by the chemical exposure, there was:

  • No meaningful chemical risk assessments.
  • No risk specific health surveillance
  • No Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) issued
  • No chemical health and safety training whatsoever
  • No reporting of health and safety incidents
  • No follow up of unusual illnesses by medical personnel
  • Ignoring dangerous air quality reports
  • Personnel doused in toxic chemicals as pranks (hazing) incidents
  • Highly toxic chemicals disposed of onsite in an unsafe manner

Read full article on The Journal website below…

Irish Air Corps Health & Safety officer ordered evidence of Carbon Monoxide risks destroyed.

In 1995 the Irish Air Corps commissioned an independent third party organisation to carry out air quality testing in the Engine Repair Flight building. ERF comprised the Engine Overhaul facility, the Non Destructive Testing workshop and the Machine shop. Avionics Squadron was located in the same physical building as the ERF and the open attic spaces meant  chemical vapours & fumes from either unit were free to flow in either direction.

The Avionics / ERF building was also less than 20m downwind from the 3m high Spray Paint Shop exhaust stack which exhausted benzene, hexamethylene diisocyanate, toluene and xylene.

Ambient Air Monitoring for Health & Safety at Work Report from the 2nd of August 1995 found that #Dichloromethane (also known as Methylene chloride) was found in some areas to be 175ppm. At the time The most stringent health and safety limits for #DCM were 50 ppm (TWA for 8 hours) and 126 ppm (STEL for 15 minutes).

Personnel, including other ranks employed in the Formation Safety Office, were never informed of these results. Avionics / ERF personnel were left in situ for a further 12 years before the workshops were finally condemned & demolished and needlessly exposed to #DCM and other chemicals.

Significantly Dichloromethane metabolises as Carbon Monoxide once inhaled but is lethal in many other different ways.  We have at least 10 untimely deaths of men who worked in this building alone, their average age of death was 49.3 years and the youngest was only 32.

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So we have one state body warning the general public about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, while another state body hid evidence of a known carbon monoxide threat from personnel working in a heavily contaminated facility.

Delay – Deny – Die

Whistle blower who raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures seeks Air Corps inquiry

A whistleblower who has raised concerns over alleged chemical exposures in the Air Corps says the force used five of the same chemicals at the centre of a cancer scandal involving tech giants Samsung.

The whistleblower has compiled a list of 70 deaths of former Air Corps staff that he believes should prompt an investigation into chemical exposures at the force’s headquarters in Casement Aerodrome.

South Korean company Samsung last week apologised for the sickness and deaths suffered by some of its workers after they were linked to chemical exposures in its facilities. Dozens of employees have experienced grave illnesses such as leukaemia and brain tumours.

Samsung and a group representing ailing workers agreed compensation terms after a highly publicised standoff that had been ongoing for more than a decade. The president of its device solutions division said the company failed to “sufficiently manage health threats” at its plants

SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry) is a group campaigning on behalf of those who worked in Samsung facilities and subsequently suffered illnesses.

Its website has listed case studies and chemicals used by Samsung, including trichloroethylene, a known carcinogenic used by the Irish Air Corps until 2007.

This newspaper has previously revealed the details of an internal Air Corps memo that said it is possible staff may have ingested Triklone N, a vapour degreaser that contains trichloroethylene,  over a 27-year-period.

The memo said staff could have suffered other exposures because there was no record that protective measures were in place to mitigate the impact of the toxic solvent.

The summary of an internal Air Corps report, compiled in 2014, asks: “Can the Defence Forces be found not to have done everything reasonably practicable?”

Read full article on Irish Examiner website below…