Irish Defence Forces Investigations into Toxic Chemical injuries
Aengus O Snodaigh TD has raised certain questions regarding the allegations made about the health and safety regime of the Irish Defence Forces.
The main question is if a Commission of Investigation be established in order to address allegations made relating to an ineffective or non-existent health and safety regime in the Air Corps, in particular, at the Baldonnel Airfield.
In the absence of the regime, hundreds of members of the Air Corps were exposed to extremely toxic, dangerous, corrosive and carcinogenic chemicals.
This exposure has affected the health of both current and past members of the Air Corps. A number of members have reported that the exposure to such chemicals has caused premature death and certain disabilities.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh also mentioned that prior to these disclosures, litigation had begun regarding the subject matter of the reports. He stated that regardless of the reports, it is important to note that the disclosures have the potential to affect the reputations and good names of several individuals.
Following an inspection conducted by the Health and Safety Authority in 2016, the HSA have continued to work with the Air Corps to improve their health and safety procedures.
Recent reports have shown that the levels of toxicity in the air at Baldonnel Airfield are now non-existent. Carbon Monoxide and various toxins that members had previously been exposed to, can no longer be detected.
In a letter, written by the Minister of State Paul Kehoe, he writes that there are a number of litigation cases between the claimants and the Defence Forces, that have been ongoing since 1991. However, the first case was not initiated until 2013. Out of 6 men taking cases against the Air Corps, 2 of these have since developed cancer. Their claims are currently being managed by the State Claims Agency.
A more recent disclosure has found that there has also been a number of children of Air Corps members who have developed illnesses or died due to exposure. Such illnesses include cancer, heart defects and intestinal problems, which have required surgery. Previous members of the Air Corps have requested, through the courts, for the names of chemicals they could possibly been exposed to while working here. A High Court Judge has said that these claimants have the right to receive the majority of the documentation requested, however, this has since been appealed by the State. This appeal is due to be heard in June 2018. The Defence Forces would give no further comment on this matter as they are subject to litigation and found it would inappropriate to discuss the matter further.
There have also been reports into the effects of chemical exposure on the wives of members of the defence force. A former mechanic who previously worked with the Air Corps discovered that a number of these women had experienced multiple miscarriages and in one particular case, a woman had 8 miscarriages in succession. An independent third party was appointed by the Minister for Defence in 2016, to investigate the allegations made in relation to fertility issues.
Although the HSA have advised that procedures into risk assessment need to be monitored, a whistleblower has stated that these steps are “too little, too late”, particularly in the case of those who have lost family members or who have developed life-changing illnesses and disabilities.
Expert Dr Paul Gueret has spoken with the Journal with regards to the investigation into the issues within the Defence Forces.
Dr Gueret, who founded the occupational healthcare firm Medmark, is an expert in the effects of organic solvents on the human body. He has backed up claims that the chemical, dichloromethane, can worsen any pre-existing heart conditions but can also cause new heart issues. Similarly, trichloroethylene, another chemical used in the Defence Forces, can be the cause of certain autoimmune illnesses.
Christopher O’Toole was appointed as an independent third party to assess the claims made. However, this has been viewed as a separate controversial issue, as he is a former senior official of the Attorney General’s Office, which is one of the bodies which there is a claim against.
If you have suffered personal injury as the result of exposure to toxic chemicals in your workplace, you can contact us on 01-5313800 or email [email protected] to discuss in further detail.