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
5% of deaths are specifically pancreatic cancer
30% of deaths are from cardiac issues
6% of deaths are specifically cardiomyopathy related
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.
A shorter version, the ToxFAQs™, is also available. This information is important because this substance may harm you.
The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.
This Public Health Statement summarizes the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s findings on JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels, tells you about them, the effects of exposure, and describes what you can do to limit that exposure.
If you are exposed to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels, many factors determine whether you’ll be harmed. These include how much you are exposed to (dose), how long you are exposed to it (duration), and how you are exposed (route of exposure). You must also consider the other chemicals you are exposed to and your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle, and state of health.
What are JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels?
JP-5 and JP-8 stand for jet propellant-5 and jet propellant-8. Propellants are substances that move other objects or give thrust. JP-5 and JP-8 are used as military aircraft fuels. They can also be used for fueling land vehicles and as a fuel source for heaters and lights.
Jet A is the type of fuel used in civilian aircraft; however, the U.S. Air Force has recently started using Jet A (plus certain additives) for flying in the continental United States. JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels are colorless liquids that are flammable and smell like kerosene. The fuels are made from chemical compounds called hydrocarbons, which are found naturally in the earth as crude oil. Hydrocarbons are compounds that contain only carbon and hydrogen. The crude oil is refined into a number of different types of fuel.
Jet A, JP-5, and JP-8 fuels may also contain various additives such as antioxidants and additives to prevent icing in the fuel lines.
What happens to JP-5, JP-8 and Jet A fuels when they enter the environment?
JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels are made up of hundreds of hydrocarbon compounds; many of these hydrocarbons are also present in gasoline. These hydrocarbons can be grouped into several classes of chemicals which have similar chemical properties. The different chemical classes can behave differently when they enter the environment.
For example, some of these can easily evaporate into the air during aircraft loading and unloading operations or as a result of their normal use as a jet fuel for civilian or military aircraft. Some may also evaporate when jet fuels are spilled accidentally onto soils or surface waters. Other chemical classes are more likely to dissolve in water following spills to surface waters or leaks from underground storage tanks. Some chemical classes found in jet fuels may slowly move down through the soil to the groundwater, while others may readily attach to particles in the soil or water. Once attached in water, these particles may sink down into the sediment.
The chemicals that evaporate may break down into other substances in air by reacting with sunlight or other chemicals in the air. The chemicals that dissolve in water may also be broken down into other substances by microorganisms found in water and sediment. However, this may take many years to occur, depending on the environmental conditions. Some chemicals that attach to soil or other matter (for example, marsh sediment) may remain in the environment for more than a decade.
Some of the chemicals in jet fuels may be detected in fish and aquatic organisms after an accidental release into a lake, river, or stream. These hydrocarbons are not expected to persist in aquatic organisms.
How might I be exposed to JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels?
It is unlikely that you will be exposed to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels unless you work with jet fuels or live very close to where they are used or were spilled.
Exposure to jet fuels can occur if you have skin contact with soil or water contaminated from a spill or leak. You may also be exposed to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels if you swim in waters where jet fuels have been spilled. If jet fuels have leaked from underground storage tanks and entered groundwater, you may be exposed from contaminated well water. You might breathe in some of the chemicals evaporating from a spill or leak site if you are in an area where an accident has occurred.
Workers involved in making or transporting jet fuels, aircraft or fuel tank maintenance, or in refueling aircraft that use JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels may be exposed to some of the chemicals that have evaporated from the fuel.
Workers in the vicinity of an aircraft during cold engine startup may also be exposed to airborne jet fuels.
Some workers may be exposed to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels through their skin if they come into contact with them without adequate protection from gloves, boots, coveralls, or other protective clothing.
How can JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels enter and leave my body?
The chemicals in JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels can enter your body through your lungs, digestive tract, or skin. We do not have information on how much of the chemicals in JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels can pass into the bloodstream, but we do know that large amounts of some of the chemicals in jet fuels can easily do so.
Studies examining the absorption of jet fuels through the skin have shown that damage to the skin and the longer jet fuels stays on your skin will increase the amount of chemicals that will enter your body.
Once jet fuels enter your body, the chemicals in the fuel will be distributed throughout your body. A number of the chemicals in jet fuels were found in the blood, fat, brain, lungs, and liver following exposure to JP-8 in air.
Some of the chemicals in JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels will be broken down in the body to form other chemicals. The chemicals in JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels will be eliminated from the body in the urine, feces, or breath.
How JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels affect your health?
The health effects of JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels depend on how much of these fuels you are exposed to and for how long.
We know very little about the human health effects caused by JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels. A few studies of military personnel have provided suggestive evidence that JP-8 can affect the nervous system. Some of the effects that have been observed in humans include changes in reaction time and other tests of neurological function.
Humans who accidentally ingested kerosene, a fuel oil similar in composition to JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels, were reported as suffering harmful effects on the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system. The observed effects included cough and difficulty breathing, abdominal pain and vomiting, drowsiness, restlessness, and convulsions.
Studies in laboratory animals have examined the toxicity of JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels following inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact. In most cases, the levels tested in laboratory animals are higher than levels the public might encounter through dermal contact with contaminated water or soil or by drinking contaminated water.
Health effects of JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels observed in these studies include damage to the liver, decreased immune response, impaired performance on neurological function tests, and impaired hearing.
Dermatitis and damage to the skin have also been observed in laboratory animals following dermal contact.
There are no reliable studies of cancer in humans exposed to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels. A few studies that examined the possible association between exposure to various types of jet fuels or to kerosene and various types of cancer did not provide conclusive results. Because the studies involved exposure to several fuel types and there was no information on exposure concentrations, these studies were not considered adequate to assess the carcinogenicity of JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels.
No inhalation or oral studies evaluated the carcinogenicity of JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A. No increases in tumor incidences were observed in rats administered kerosene by a feeding tube for 2 years. JP-5 applied to the skin for 2 years was not carcinogenic in mice. Increases in skin tumors were observed in mice dermally exposed to Jet A for 52–62 weeks; however, tumors were only observed at concentrations resulting in damage to the skin. Similarly, increased numbers of skin tumors were observed in mice that received applications of undiluted kerosene on the skin for 2 years, but this occurred only in the presence of skin damage.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the EPA have not classified JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels as to their carcinogenicity.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A as Group 3 carcinogens (not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans).
How can JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels affect children?
Exposure JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels mainly occurs in occupational settings where children are unlikely to be exposed. No studies examining the health effects of JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels in children were found. There are a number of reports of accidental kerosene ingestion in children in developing countries where kerosene may typically be stored in containers and places easily accessible to children. Some of the more commonly reported effects include coughing, pneumonia, shortness of breath, vomiting, fever, unconsciousness, drowsiness, and irritability. These effects are similar to the effects seen in adults who ingest kerosene.
Studies in laboratory animals exposed to JP-8 during pregnancy did not find birth defects in the newborn animals. However, some effects on muscle coordination and immune function were found in the offspring.
How can families reduce the risk of exposure to JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels?
If your doctor finds that you have been exposed to significant amounts of JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels, ask whether your children or unborn baby might be at risk. Your doctor might need to ask your state health department to investigate. It is unlikely that you or your family will be exposed to JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels. Jet fuels are not likely to be common contaminants in foods or drinking water.
If you get JP-5, JP-8, or Jet A fuels on your work clothes, you should change your clothes before leaving your job and returning home.
Are there medical tests to determine whether I have been exposed to JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels?
Many of the individual chemicals found in JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels and their breakdown products (metabolites) can be measured in blood and urine. Finding these chemicals does not mean that you were exposed to jet fuels because these chemicals may have come from a different source including exposure to gasoline fumes when pumping gas. The levels of these chemicals in your body cannot predict the kind of health effects that might occur or whether you will have any effects. JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A fuels and their metabolites leave the body fairly rapidly and tests to detect these chemicals need to be conducted within days of exposure.
It is pretty clear from reading interactions between Air Corps personnel and the Air Corps Formation Safety Office that the risk of injury from inhalation and absorption of jet fuel simply is not understood.
The consequence of this is that the actual risks are downplayed with risk assessments for fuel handling operations being declared as “Low Risk”. Risk assessments that are declared to be “Low Risk” are great for the FSO because they mean no further steps need to be taken.
A risk assessment completed by a suitably qualified person with the correct vigor will take into account the need for adequate PPE and also the need for risk specific health surveillance.
Chronic jet fuel exposure could be detrimental to Air Force personnel, not only by adversely affecting their work performance but also by predisposing these individuals to increased incidences of infectious disease and cancer.
Chronic exposure to jet fuel has been shown to adversely affect human liver function, to cause emotional dysfunction, to cause abnormal electroencephalograms, to cause shortened attention spans, and to decrease sensorimotor speed.
Currently, there are no standards for personnel exposure to jet fuels of any kind, let alone JP-8 jet fuel. Kerosene based petroleum distillates have been associated with hepatic, renal, neurologic and pulmonary toxicity in animals models and human occupational exposures. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 1.3 million workers were exposed to jet fuels in 1992. Thus, jet fuel exposure may not only have serious consequences for USAF personnel, but also may have potential harmful effects upon a significant number of civilian workers.
Short-term 7 day JP-8 jet fuel exposure causes lung injury as evidenced by increased pulmonary resistance, a decrease in bronchoalveolar lavage concentrations of substance P, increased wet lung body weight ratio, and increased alveolar permeability. Long-term exposures, although demonstrating evidence of lung recovery, results in injury to secondary organs such as liver, kidneys and spleen.
Read full report at the US Defence Technical Information Centre here.
The Irish Air Corps uses JetA1 with added fuel system icing inhibitor (FSII) which while being very similar to JP-8, is not identical as it is lacking some additives used in very high performance military engines.
But is very similar and almost all the health concerns related to JP-8 would be common to JetA1.
The Formation Safety Office at the Irish Air Corps believe refueling to be a “low risk” activity yet it appears to be driving IBS/ IBD havoc amongst personnel in Baldonnel who handle fuel.
From 1974 to 2000, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) put in place formal Deseal/Reseal (DSRS) programs, in addition to informal repair methods, to correct fuel leaks in Australia’s F-111 fleet of aircraft. These programs were undertaken at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland, and were suspended in early 2000 due to health concerns among DSRS personnel. A series of inquiries, investigations and scientific studies were commenced to determine the extent and impact of those health concerns.
As part of those investigations, the Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study (MCIS) was started to answer the following research question: did RAAF personnel involved either directly or indirectly in the F-111 DSRS maintenance programs (the DSRS-exposed Study Population) experience higher levels of mortality or cancer incidence compared with two groups of non-exposed RAAF personnel (the Comparison populations)—the RAAF Base Amberley (non-technical) Comparison Population and the RAAF Base Richmond (technical) Comparison Population?
The results of the 4th MCIS show that involvement in the DSRS programs at RAAF Base Amberley was associated with a statistically significant 20–30% increase in the rate of cancer diagnosis, compared with both Comparison populations.
Involvement in the DSRS programs was also associated with a statistically significant 27% decrease in mortality compared with the Amberley Comparison Population.
Counselling through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling;
Participation in Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling coordinated programs, including the Lifestyle Management Course and Heart Health;
Eligibility to participate in the Better Health Program – a cancer screening and disease prevention program; and
approved travel to attend medical consultations and counselling sessions and healthy lifestyle programs through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling.
The policy of successive Taoisigh, Tánaistí, Ministers for Defence, Chiefs of Staff and Director Generals of the Department of Defence was, and appears still to be, to let personnel suffer and die unnecessarily without any targeted intervention whatsoever by the state.
We revisit an old Parliamentary Question that was never fully resolved.
Personnels say ERF/Avionics was condemned and placed out of bounds, previous junior minister says no record of this.
Perhaps Simon Coveney could “ask someone”?
Written answers – Wednesday 5th July 2017- Department of Defence Properties
Lisa Chambers (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
269. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date on which the building was condemned; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31724/17]
Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
I have been advised by the military authorities that it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy within the allocated time. However, I have requested that the information be sourced as a matter of urgency and I will reply to the Deputy as soon as it is available.
No further response
Written answers – Thursday 12th October 2017 – Department of Defence Properties
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
188. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason or fault for which a building (details supplied) at Casement Aerodrome, Dublin was condemned and ordered out of bounds to all personnel; the date of condemnation; the person that signed the order condemning the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43216/17]
Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
I have been advised by the military authorities that the former ERF Avionics building, which was a mixed brick and prefabricated structure, was demolished in 2009 as a direct result of the completion of more permanent, bespoke designed workshops in 2007.
They have further advised that following a review of records at the relevant locations within the Defence Forces that no known documentation exists indicating that this building was ever condemned or placed out of bounds prior to being demolished.
The ERF / Avionics complex was highly contaminated and placed out of bounds in September 2007. Air Corps engineers where also actually fearful that the building would collapse during use.
However, in 2008 rooms on the Avionics side were pressed into use as indoor training areas for the Air Corps College. These indoor training areas shared contaminated air with ERF through interlinked open attic spaces thus further exposing personnel in an unprotected manner to dangerous chemical fumes such as dichloromethane.
Also in 2008 personnel who served in ERF sought their medical files from the Defence Forces and subsequently in early 2009 the building was demolished.
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.
Certificates of compliance were awarded on 27th February (2007), verifying that proper health and safety management structures are in place throughout the Defence Forces.
“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.
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.”
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.
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”
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.
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 notnotified 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 readhere
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), seven million people worldwide die as a consequence of air pollution every year. For around 20 years, studies have shown that air-borne particulate matter negatively affects human health. Now, in addition to already investigated particle sources like emissions from heating systems, industry and road traffic, aircraft turbine engine particle emissions have also become more important.
In a unique, innovative experiment, researchers have investigated the effect of exhaust particles from aircraft turbine engines on human lung cells.
The cells reacted most strongly to particles emitted during ground idling.
It was also shown that the cytotoxic effect is only to some extent comparable to that of particles from gasoline and diesel engines.The primary solid particles, i.e. those emitted directly from the source, have the strongest effect on people in its immediate vicinity.
Now a multidisciplinary team, led by lung researcher Marianne Geiser of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Bern, together with colleagues from Empa Dübendorf and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), has shown that primary soot particles from kerosene combustion in aircraft turbine engines also cause direct damage to lung cells and can trigger an inflammatory reaction if the solid particles are inhaled in the direct vicinity of the engine.
The researchers demonstrated for the first time that the damaging effects also depend on the operating conditions of the turbine engine, the composition of the fuel, and the structure of the generated particles.
Beechcraft 200 Super King Air No 240 showing soiling of the engine panels with soot from exhaust gasses.
Extremely small particles in the nanoscale range
Particles emitted from aircraft turbine engines are generally ultrafine, i.e. smaller than 100 nm. By way of comparison, a human hair has a diameter of about 80,000 nm. When inhaled, these nanoparticles — like those from other combustion sources -efficiently deposit in the airways. In healthy people, the well-developed defense mechanisms in the lungs normally take care of rendering the deposited particles ineffective and removing them from the lungs as quickly as possible.
However, if the inhaled particles manage to overcome these defense mechanisms, due to their structure or physico-chemical properties, there is a danger for irreparable damage to the lung tissue. This process, already known to researchers from earlier experiments with particle emissions from gasoline and diesel engines, has now also been observed for particle emissions from aircraft engines.
Toxicity depends on the operating conditions of the turbines and the type of fuel
Evidence of increased cell membrane damage and oxidative stress in the cell cultures was identified. Oxidative stress accelerates ageing of cells and can be a trigger for cancer or immune system diseases.
Overall, according to the researchers, it has been demonstrated that the cell-damaging effect caused by exposure to particles generated by the combustion of gasoline, diesel and kerosene fuel are comparable for similar doses and exposure times.
Additionally, a similar pattern was found in the secretion of inflammatory cytokines after exposure to gasoline and kerosene fuel particles.
Aerosols: distance from the source is crucial
Aerosols are the finest solid or fluid substance suspended in the air. In combustion processes, the composition of ultrafine particles is highly variable. In addition, aerosols are unstable, and they are modified after their formation. Primary ultrafine solid particles have a high diffusion velocity. As a result, at high concentrations such particles either stick together or attach to other particles. Therefore, the effect of primary ultrafine particles depends on the distance from the source, implying that there is a difference depending on whether a person is close to the source (such as people at the roadside ) or at a greater distance (aircraft taxiing or taking off). Further research is needed to clarify how strong the impact would be at a greater distance from an aircraft engine
The layout of the Irish Air Corps base at Casement Aerodrome ensures that aircraft exhaust gasses are blown over populated sections of the airbase when winds are from the south, south east or south west. This includes hangars, offices, workshops and living in accommodation such as the apprentice hostel and married quarters. Calm weather also creates conditions where exhaust gasses linger in higher concentrations.
This results in all Irish Air Corps personnel (commissioned, enlisted, civilian & family) being exposed to emissions from idling aircraft engines, emissions that are known to cause harm.
In the mid 1990s a study of air pollution adjacent to the ramp area at Baldonnel was commissioned. This report relating to this study has gone missing.
Anecdotal evidence suggests increased prevalence of occupational asthma & adult onset asthma amongst serving & former personnel who served in Baldonnel or Gormanston aerodromes.
Older gas turbine engines produce dirtier exhaust gasses.
Idling gas turbine engines produce dirtier exhaust gasses.
Below are some of the gas turbine powered Air Corps aircraft that were powered by elderly engine designs.
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel who worked with widely used jet fuel suffered damage to their body’s cells with unknown long-term consequences, according to groundbreaking research released after a Freedom of Information laws request.
Defence’s senior physician in occupational and environmental medicine, Dr Ian Gardner, described the findings as a “part of the puzzle” and a hypothesis-making study”, and pointed it out that it was one of a series of pieces of research currently underway.
“What it shows is there is evidence of small but persistent cellular damage,” Dr Gardner told the ABC. He said it was not yet clear what the long-term effects of that damage might be.
“For the future though there are a lot of other aircraft maintenance workers who have done similar jobs on other aircraft types, and now Defence and DVA and Air Force are considering what additional work should be done in relation to those other people who are not actually on the F-111 programs but have done essentially similar work,” Dr Gardner said.
The Jet Fuel Syndrome Study also shows that the fuel is more toxic to the body’s cells than the two solvents initially blamed for the sickness suffered by the deseal/reseal workers, and that the toxicity is even higher when those solvents and the fuel were mixed.
The results of the research project, headed by Professor Francis Bowling of Brisbane’s Mater Hospital, were handed to Defence last September, and have been the subject of significant scrutiny and review due to the potential significance of the findings.
They will give heart to former and serving Defence personnel who believe they have been left out in the cold by Defence after developing serious health complaints while working with fuel and other substances.
Junior Minister with responsibility for Defence said in the Dáil that he was assured by the Irish Air Corps that the RAAF F1-11 deseal/reseal exposure tragedy is completely different to any exposures at the Irish Air Corps.
Was the minister suggesting that Irish Air Corps gas turbine engines don’t run on jet fuel?