PROPOSED SURVEY OF EX COMMUNICATIONS OPERATIVE AND TECHNICAL PERSONNEL
TO IDENTIFY HARMFUL EXPOSURES
TO TOXIC CHEMICALS OR CONDITIONS
Please complete this form and return to Ernie Gimm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of us are now familiar with the health issues that arose for maintenance personnel working on the F111 De-seal/Re-seal program. You may also be aware that initially, both Air Force Office and DVA rejected that there was a problem. It took unprecedented legal action to gain recognition that there was in fact a major health issue associated with working in that project. Many of those involved in that program are now dead or suffering serious health effects. Many are affected by cancer of one form or another.
may not be aware of potential health effects associated with working in commcens. I worked at Frognall
from September 1963 to February 1970 and in
Over a long period of time, I have been suffering from skin disorders, internal bleeding and heart problems. In 1980, I had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) while serving at 3TU. In recent times, I have been plagued with skin Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCCs) and one malignant melanoma that required two lots of surgery to my face to have it successfully removed. The doctor caring for my skin has stated that I have an abnormally high incidence of skin problems.
In 2004, I
submitted a claim to DVA seeking recognition of the skin and heart problems,
citing exposure to toxic chemicals in commcens as the
cause. Those claims were rejected by DVA. Confident
that I knew what I had experienced as true, I contacted Dr John Pollak who is a scientist at the
Dr Pollak reviewed the documentation that I had provided to DVA and prepared a report stating that, based on his research and the research of other eminent scientists, I had a valid case and the health effects that I was experiencing were definitely attributable to exposure to harmful chemicals. Armed with this information, I approached DVA, asking whether they would accept the evidence of Dr Pollak.
where the issues emerged. Dr Pollak is a
PHD, not a medical doctor, so while DVA did not definitively state that they
would not accept Dr Pollacks findings, DVA did refer me to a heart specialist
However, he did not refer to Dr Pollak in his report or specifically mention the cleaning agent Turcosolv anywhere in his report although he had been provided with such detail.
My investigation has shown that Turcosolv which, in its 1960s-1970s formulation, was listed as a hazardous chemical likely to cause cancer and other heath effects mainly relating to skin, eyes and liver. It is also listed in official health documentation as a carcinogenic substance. The documentation also lists that repeated exposure will lead to cancer. Turcosolv was used as the primary cleaning fluid for teletype washing and was used in the teletype washing machines installed at all commcens that undertook teletype maintenance. It was also used as a general purpose cleaner throughout commcens. Although the cleaned teletype parts and assemblies were dried in heated cabinets, there was a residual coating on all parts.
When the machines were returned to service in the commcen, they radiated toxic fumes as they became heated in the soundproofed cabinets and the fumes filled both the air and air-conditioners in the commcen. There was no way to avoid inhaling the fumes.
The other serious issue was that most of the communications equipment, including Teletype, was fitted with oil filled capacitors. From the 1940s to the early 1980s, the oil filled capacitors contained Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). This also applied to the secure equipments in use during that period in all commcens. These capacitors were notorious for leaking oil. The fumes from leaking capacitors were also heated in the cabinets and carried into the air being breathed by commcen employees.
Technicians used isopropyl alcohol for cleaning and repair work. The fumes from these activities were also carried into the air-conditioning. Dr Pollak identifies that the combination of these chemicals plus normal cleaning agents creates a toxic mix that will cause harm to humans. Indeed, he has scientific evidence to substantiate that claim! He has also written a book on the subject and numerous scientific papers. Another consideration that has emerged from my research is the fact that people were allowed to smoke in commcens and there is an added danger from the combination of side stream smoke and the toxic fumes mix.
My purpose in writing this paper is to ascertain how many commcen operatives and technicians have experienced health problems that they may not have been able to attribute to a particular cause. I would be particularly interested in hearing from all ex commcen and technical personnel in regard to medical issues or problems so that a database can be prepared. Skin, eye, headaches and bleeding problems are particularly relevant. Liver, kidney and gall bladder problems are also of interest. I am particularly concerned about the number of comms people who have died of cancer and cancer related issues before their actuarial death age.
If there is sufficient support, it would also be advantageous to have DVA recognize the harmful effects of toxic chemical exposure in commcens to ensure more health and financial support for those who become chronically ill.
Should you be willing to participate in this survey, and because I am not always readily available, Ernie Gimm has kindly consented to act as my initial point of contact.
Mail address, .
Commcens where you served: ..
Dates for each commcen (e.g.
Equipment types in use at each commcen (e.g. Teletype M14, M15, M28, KW26, etc).
Health issues attributable to RAAF service: past, long-term and current.
Treatments: past, long-term and current.
Known diagnoses: Skin itching, basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, skin sores, bone cancer, eye problems. Etc.
Any surgery that might be relevant, etc.
Provide a narrative describing any issue which you consider has either been a potential or an actual health hazard during or resulting from your Service career.
Privacy of data collected will be a major consideration. Details will be restricted so that data and details provided by participants will not be released to anyone other than those collecting and collating the data.
Obviously, all data and details will be kept in two files. The first would be a highly confidential file with restricted access and will contain all personal details. The working file would be a statistical file which will not identify any person but will contain health effects, risks and exposures. The statistical file would be available to third parties but will not contain any personal details.
Your participation in the survey, including those who have lost ex-serving members, would be highly appreciated and valuable to the clarification and quantification of this matter, the resolution of which is long overdue
Telstech 1963-1971 EngRad 1971-1985