03 July 2011

Davis-Monthan Workers Filed IG Complaint re: C-123 Agent Orange Exposure

Back in 1998, a group of civilian Boneyard workers realized they'd been working with stored C-123K/UC-123K aircraft which increasingly were drawing attention due to the aircraft's Agent Orange background...the planes had been used to spray Agent Orange and remained contaminated with poison dioxin. Workers noted the new requirements to wear hazmat protective clothing and respirators, and saw that the entire collection of aircraft had been moved to an area out of public sight, then fenced in with HAZARDOUS MATERIAL - DO NOT ENTER signs posted on the fences.

Naturally, they wondered about the many years they'd worked on the aircraft since C-123s first began arriving at Davis-Monthan for storage. Had they been exposed before the hazmat protection rules went into place? Asking their supervisor, they were directed to write a formal letter to the 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineer before he'd agree to meet with them. They did so, and the engineer summed up the situation for them stating that tests showed extremely low levels of dioxin did exist and health impact on workers was considered low based on potential doses, especially as the workers were now required to wear protective clothing and respirators. HEY, came the answer, what about the first eighteen years without the hazmat and respirator protection? Rightfully, employees such as Edward Margosian responded loudly that the real truth is emplyees assigned to work on C-123 aircraft over an 18 year period were NEVER told of the potential health risks associated with these aircraft until a date somewhat before their complaint was filed.

Welcome to the club, guys. We Air Force types flew those same planes for a decade, living in them more intimately than you could ever imagine, and we were never told. Not told then, not told EVER. Never told that the Air Force tests showed them "extremely dangerous, extremely hazardous"...not at the time we flew them which was before Agent Orange worries surfaced, but the Air Force never told us after we'd parked the last planes there at Davis-Monthan for you, and like them, went off to our own retirements.

The employees filed an IG complaint, which I received in only partial form from Hill AFB, although for some nasty reason Hill left the employee Social Security numbers on it...I'll delete before posting here, and I'll contact Hill for a more complete accounting of the IG action and its resolution. A fax cover/routing sheet from Office of the Air Force Surgeon General dated 9 Feb 98 shows it reached the desk of Mrs Judy Knight, Medical Inquiries Officer...I'll follow up with her or her replacement. Nasty. 

I hope our Tucson folks might track down some of these workers, or the base civilian employee management office, to ask if there are any corporate memories about this incident.

Sorry for the copy attached...part is handwritten and copied poorly, and the response itself is missing pages of the event summary and the decisions reached.m

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