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June 22, 2018

Inquest hears three family members died from asbestos-related cancer

Two brothers and a sister died from a rare form of cancer related to asbestos exposure, an inquest has heard.

At the inquest into the death of 65-year-old Charlie Glass from Broadford Rise, Ballinteer, Dublin 16, who passed away from asbestos-related cancer at St Vincent’s Hospital on September 14th of last year, the Dublin coroner heard that his brother and sister also died as a result of exposure to fibres of the dangerous substance.

All three were separately exposed to asbestos. His son, David Glass, told the court that his father had worked cutting asbestos sheets at Brooks Thomas building providers in the mid-1960s. This was work he did for three-four years from the age of 14. His uncle was exposed while working as a pipefitter in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s while his aunt had come into contact with asbestos while washing her builder husband’s clothing, also in Australia.

All three died from a mesothelioma, a tumour around the lungs which has a more than 90 per cent association with asbestos exposure.

Charlie Glass was diagnosed with the tumour in October 2009 having gone to a VHI Swiftcare Clinic when he hurt his ribs in a fall at work. Doctors there felt X-rays showed more fluid on his lungs than could be explained by the fall and he was sent for further tests. Initial CT scans did not reveal the presence of cancer and the fluid was drained. However, it subsequently built back up and further scans showed he had developed a mesothelioma.

Charlie Glass did not realise that he had been exposed to asbestos until he was discussing his diagnosis with doctors. It was then that he recalled cutting the asbestos sheets.

“They were cutting asbestos sheets for fire doors. It is fire retardant so, at the time, it was seen as ideal,” said his son. There was no protective gear worn when they were working on the sheets and no awareness of the dangers involved. “They would often have lunch in the same area they were working in,” he told the coroner.

David Glass said when his father was diagnosed he was told that he would have 11 months left. “He ended up getting around four years,” he said.

Doctors considered Charlie Glass, who was a fit man, to be a candidate for radical intervention and he was sent to London where he underwent chemotherapy and surgery. He returned to Ireland and had another two-to-three years of good health but scans subsequently confirmed the cancer had returned. He died on September 14th, 2013, following a deterioration in his health.

The presence of a disseminated mesothelioma was confirmed at autopsy and “numerous asbestos bodies were identified in the lungs”, said coroner Dr Brian Farrell. He said it was “very unfortunate” that the three siblings had died from such a rare cancer.

He returned a verdict of death by occupational related disease.

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Inquest hears three family members died from asbestos-related cancer

Asbestos clean-up bill for two ships could top €1m

Industry insiders have estimated it could end up costing the taxpayer around €1m to remove asbestos from two Naval Service vessels which were supposed to be free of the potentially lethal substance.

Work to remove asbestos started on sister ships LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla on May 28, despite a consultancy firm giving them the all-clear 14 years ago.

The firm has since closed, which means it is highly unlikely the clean-up costs can be recouped. Ultimately the bill will fall to the taxpayer.

The Defence Forces confirmed that work on removing asbestos from the LÉ Ciara is now complete. It is expected the ship will become operational in the coming weeks. The clean-up on LÉ Orla is still ongoing.

The Defence Forces press office said it estimated that this will be completed sometime in the next four months.

The press office said it would not be releasing the costs of the clean-up while the work is ongoing.

However, industry sources say the bill could be anything up to €14,000 a week, especially as asbestos has to be exported to Germany as there are no suitable sites here capable of disposing of it safely.

If these asbestos clean-up costs are accurate, it means the final bill could be around €1m.

The LÉ Aoife was found to have asbestos in a gasket in an engine and the substance was also detected in LÉ Eithne’s forward pump room.

Both ships will undergo a further examination as part of a fleet-wide asbestos survey ordered by Naval Service senior officers.

It is unlikely that asbestos will be found onboard the fleet’s newer ships as the substance was widely used in the 1980s in the ship- building industry, especially in engine rooms to insulate pipes and boilers.

At the time, it was considered the best and most cost-effective insulating material and was also fire-resistant.

Meanwhile, Siptu industrial organiser Jason Palmer said his members — civilian workers at the Naval base — who were exposed to asbestos on the vessels have all had medical screening.

This has also been completed for all Naval Service personnel who were potentially in contact with the substance.

He said the Department of Defence had confirmed it will put a plan in place to ensure that ongoing screening will take place for them, as it can take up to 40 years for asbestos symptoms to manifest themselves.

Mr Palmer said asbestos-awareness training had been completed by union members on the base and some have already started a course on the safe removal of the substance.

“Discussions are ongoing about getting the remainder trained in that,” Mr Palmer said.

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Asbestos clean-up bill for two ships could top €1m

Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected

Medical screenings on civilian employees who worked on the navy ships where asbestos was detected are being carried out.

According to the Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence Paul Kehoe, all staff on board LE Ciara, LE Orla and in the Naval Service dockyard, including the civilian workforce, have been briefed on the situation to date.

Answering a parliamentary question, he said that all Naval Service personnel who may have come into contact with asbestos have been screened by the Naval Medical Officer. “Medical screening of civilian employees by an occupational health practitioner has commenced and will be completed in the coming weeks,” said Kehoe.

Asbestos 

Earlier this year while work was being carried out on both LE Orla and LE Ciara material which was suspected as being asbestos was found on both ships. A full survey and analysis of the ships confirmed that the material was asbestos.

Kehoe said that the HSA launched its own investigation into the incident and this is ongoing.

“I am advised that the HSA has visited the Naval Base a number of times and has served the Naval Service with an improvement notice under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005,” he said.

Since the discovery of asbestos, air sampling and monitoring has been conducted by an external contractor on both ships and in the transport workshops and the samples taken were found to be safe.

As part of the requirements under the HSA improvement notice, the Naval Service has engaged an external company, Abestaways, who are specialists in asbestos removals, to undertake the deep “environmental clean” of the two ships.

This clean-up commenced on 26 May and is estimated to take a number of weeks.

On completion of this process an independent asbestos consultancy company, Phoenix Environmental, will carry out air monitoring, analysis and third party assurance and reissue a re-occupational certificate as required by the HSA.

Kehoe said that in the early 2000s, an external asbestos company was brought in to inspect the ships. The company gave the fleet the all clear,despite asbsetos being present in some of the ships.

“That consultancy is no longer in business,” said Kehoe.

Serious situation 

“I am advised by the Naval Service that a full asbestos audit of all ships in the fleet will be carried out and in the interim a full asbestos risk assessment will be carried out prior to any work commencing. As I mentioned previously, this matter is being treated with the utmost seriousness and attention by the Department of Defence and the Naval Service,” he said.

Kehoe said the Naval Service will be launching a formal accident investigation team to investigate all aspects behind this occurrence and “to ensure that there is no repetition in the future”.

The minister said that while the cleaning is underway, the Naval Service is only currently operating six of its ships, just 75 per cent of its resources.

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Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected

Fears for fleet after third navy asbestos discovery

Concerns have been raised about the operational effectiveness of the Naval Service after it emerged that a third vessel has been discovered to have potentially fatal asbestos onboard.

The Irish Examiner can reveal the ageing LÉ Aoife was immobilised off the Cork coast after it was discovered that a blown engine gasket was suspected to contain asbestos.

This came after she was put to sea even though other asbestos-containing material was removed from her days before.

LÉ Aoife was anchored off Ballycotton for nearly 24 hours after the latest discovery of asbestos in its engine room and became the third vessel in the eight-ship fleet to have asbestos issues.

The LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla have been “locked down” for the last couple of weeks at the Naval Service’s base in Haulbowline, Co Cork, after asbestos was found onboard both vessels.

The Naval Service admitted last night that asbestos was found on the LÉ Aoife last week following routine maintenance and she was subsequently sent out on patrol.

A spokesman said that “concern was raised over several gaskets, lagging and other material by staff, one of these items subsequently tested positive for asbestos”.

According to PDFORRA, which represents enlisted members of the Naval Service, the LÉ Aoife, which is over 30 years old, then set sail after the removal of the asbestos.

However, PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney said a gasket in one of the ship’s two engines “blew” last Monday night and she remained anchored off Ballycotton because it was also suspected that it contained asbestos. The ship went back on patrol at about 7pm last night and is expected to brought back into port shortly for a thorough asbestos check.

Mr Rooney said it was “a very worrying development” and that the navy’s “operational capabilities were diminished” as a result of the asbestos issue which, he said, was of “concern” to his members.

Mr Rooney also questioned why the Naval Service had not implem-ented a promise to train numerous personnel quickly in identifying asbestos risks on its ships.

He said it was now imperative that the navy carried out a full audit immediately of all its ships for the substance.

The Naval Service spokesman said a routine maintenance procedure on the LÉ Aoife raised concern by crew members about asbestos still being onboard.

“After the full risk assessment was completed and whilst the procedure was being carried out, a gasket which was being removed raised concerns. This gasket was sealed into a protective bag and removed from the area,” said the spokesman.

“It should be stressed that this gasket has not yet been tested so it is impossible to state if it contains asbestos. This gasket was also covered in lubricant and had not been handled or ground in such a manner that could potentially lead to the release of any harmful fibres should they prove to be present,” he said.

The spokesman said the health and welfare of its personnel remained its primary concern. “All Health and Safety Authority guidelines were followed as those issues were addressed.”

It is expected the LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla will return to service when the experts remove their asbestos “which is estimated to take a number of weeks”.

“Following the recent experiences, the Naval Service has introduced further precautionary protocols on all vessels and the level of awareness of this potential risk has also been raised to mitigate any potential risk,” said the spokesman.

Commenting on the LÉ Aoife, the spokesman said the vessel would be examined by an expert contractor when she comes back into Haulbowline, but did not stipulate exactly when that might be, primarily for security reasons.

The spokesman added that “the Naval Service is currently engaged with their personnel to further inform them on these issues and address their concerns in a proactive manner”.

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Fears for fleet after third navy asbestos discovery

Senator wades in to asbestos row at psych hospital

A senator who worked at psychiatric hospital which is at the centre of an asbestos row says that HSE plans to remove the material while patients are still in situ is simply not an option.

Senator John Gilroy knows St Stephen’s Hospital better than most, having worked as a psychiatric nurse there for 20 years before being elected to the Seanad in 2011.

He has waded into the controversy after psychiatric nurses staged a protest outside the hospital to highlight their “grave concerns” about plans to remove asbestos from a ward while the patients continue to be housed there.

Mr Gilroy said he couldn’t understand why the HSE couldn’t wait to do the job when the ward is closed for a major refurbishment in three weeks’ time.

The HSE maintains that the work can be undertaken with the 13 male patients in situ because experts say the removal of the asbestos is classified as “very low risk”.

The asbestos is contained in the floor of the ward and the HSE said works areas will be partitioned off.

The HSE also said that the partitions will be sealed off preventing any air pollutants leaving the works area.

However, Mr Gilroy said, regardless of this, the noise alone will be extremely disruptive to patients and staff.

“If they are removing asbestos from the floor they’ll probably have to use kango hammers. If this was happening at Cork University Hospital, I’m sure the patients wouldn’t be left in the ward,” he said.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) says it could move all the patients into a unit less than 50 metres away.

The hospital originally opened in 1955 to deal with tuberculosis cases. With developments in treatment for TB the need for beds in the hospital declined and so it became a psychiatric hospital.

“Back then dangers of asbestos weren’t realised. In its intact form there’s no risk, but when it’s broken up the dust presents the problem. There should be an asbestos audit and risk assessment of all the buildings in the hospital,” he said.

The senator said he remembered a few years ago that asbestos had to be removed from another ward at the hospital and the patients were transferred to another building until the work was complete.

The builders were supposed to move in last Monday, but didn’t arrive on site. It was the same day the PNA held its protest.

It’s understood the PNA is considering what further steps it might take to protect the health and safety of patients and staff.

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Senator wades in to asbestos row at psych hospital

Nurses air concerns over asbestos removal

Nurses at a psychiatric hospital have expressed “grave concerns” about HSE plans to remove potentially dangerous asbestos from a ward while staff and patients are still in it.

Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) members said it was “incomprehensible” that the HSE plans to remove asbestos from a hospital ward in Glanmire, Co Cork while 13 patients and staff are still in situ.

They’re also shocked that an agency tasked with safeguarding the public’s health has suggested such a move when the Naval Service has “locked down” two ships after discovering asbestos on board.

The Navy said it won’t let anybody other than members of a specialist clean-up team into the vessels to remove the material.

According to staff, an asbestos removal team was supposed to start work yesterday morning at Unit 3, St Stephen’s Hospital, but didn’t arrive after the protest was mounted.

Psychiatric nurses can’t understand why the HSE wants to do this now, rather than wait until the unit is closed on April 28 for a total overhaul.

The PNA said the protest was organised to highlight “health and safety concerns” about plans to carry out the work on the acute admissions unit for males.

Admissions will cease there on April 14, ahead of the temporary shutdown two weeks later for complete refurbishment.

Nurses claim in the interim patients could be easily moved to another unit around 50 metres away while the work is being undertaken.

The PNA said a report commissioned by the HSE South had confirmed that asbestos is present in ward’s floor, but they also believe it may be present in the walls.

PNA sources said the last time asbestos was removed from wards at the hospital all patients were transferred out of them before the work began.

They are also concerned that other parts of the hospital, which was built in the 1950s, may also be contaminated with the substance.

Fianna Fáil spokesman for health Deputy Billy Kelleher said he thought it ironic that the Naval Service had locked down two ships when the HSE proposed to carry out asbestos removal while patients and staff remained in the ward.

The TD, who lives close to the hospital, said “all patients and staff had to be removed prior to any works being carried out”.

However, the HSE said specialists had classified the asbestos as “very low risk” and they would partition off work areas and seal them to prevent any air transmission to patients and staff.

“The works will be supervised and monitored by an independent accredited specialist company, who will undertake air sampling during all phases of the works,” a HSE spokesman said.

He added that patients wouldn’t be removed during the work.

“The remedial works themselves will be completed while the unit remains operational.

“Similar works have been completed in other occupied acute in-patient settings in Cork in recent years,” the spokesman added.

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Nurses air concerns over asbestos removal