Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Defence Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today reiterated his call for the Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe to establish a formal investigation into the health effects of years of exposure to toxic chemicals on Irish Air Corps personnel
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of current and former members of the Irish Air Corps (both civilian & military) were exposed to a vast cocktail of highly dangerous workplace chemicals including carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants and immune sensitisers.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said;
“The failure of the Air Corps management to implement even the most basic chemical safety provisions possibly resulted in considerable physical and mental health damage to exposed personnel.
“The exposure to toxic chemicals for decades appears from figures collated by former Air Corps personnel to have contributed to a very high number of fatalities from a variety of rare and complex cancers, cardiovascular disease and suicides, and also high rates of miscarriage among female members.
“For 20 years, military authorities ignored recommendations from safety reports and only acted when their failure to act was highlighted by whistleblowers.
“It is likely that a whole generation of personnel would not have been exposed or suffered the resultant health effects if the military authorities had acted on health and safety reports in the 1990s which highlighted the dangers.
“Similar chemical exposures occurred in other countries’ air forces. In Australia and the Netherlands when the issue was highlighted, a suite of supportive health measures including awareness and screening programs were introduced which has helped to reduce mortality among former members.
“Since the current Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe was made aware of the health & safety failings at Baldonnell in 2015, zero health supports have been offered to exposed personnel.
“While the health and safety regime in the Irish Air Corps has improved, upwards of 25 Air Corps personnel who would have suffered exposure to the toxic chemicals have died of what are being described as ‘untimely deaths’.
“I am calling, as I have for several years, for Minister Kehoe to address this appalling legacy by having medical cards issued to all affected former Irish Air Corps personnel, and to consider a medical investigation similar to the Australian SHOAMP study so that suffering can be reduced and so that lives will not continue to be lost unnecessarily.”