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RAF Kinloss man says working with chemicals at base caused cancer

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A former airman has claimed that working with dangerous chemicals at RAF Kinloss has caused him to develop cancer.

Michael Boyd served as a corporal at the base for three years, between 1987 and 1990, and was responsible for cleaning and repairing lifeboats and survival kits for Nimrod search and rescue planes.

He claims that he and his colleagues were exposed to carcinogenic chemicals daily during that period, in poorly ventilated work bays with little or no protective clothing.

And the 53-year-old believes his time in Moray is solely to blame for his recent diagnosis of incurable Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer.

Mr Boyd is now suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD), arguing that the organisation recklessly exposed him to a cocktail of toxic substances and has failed to accept any responsibility for his current condition.

The father-of-four said: “Most of my days at Kinloss were spent up to my elbows in chemicals, I just want someone to admit what happened.”

The MoD last night stressed that the health of its serving personnel and veterans was “of paramount importance”, and that strict policies have been formed regarding hazardous substances.

But a spokesman said they were unable to comment on Mr Boy’s legal case.

The veteran, who now lives in Oxfordshire, worked as part of a specialist team, nicknamed “Squippers”, at Kinloss.

He says that almost 50 of his former workmates are suffering from similar diseases – including throat and blood cancer – as well as life-threatening respiratory and skin disorders.

Others, including his closest comrade have already died, and Mr Boyd has raised fears that more ex-RAF workers who spent time in such manual roles could be plagued by diseases.

He claimed: “Chemicals were swirling around, and the only thing we didn’t do with them was to drink them.

“I’m angry because if they had taken the proper precautions I wouldn’t be in this situation with my health.

“It is not just about me, but all the lads – we were a tight bunch and it is no coincidence that so many of us are now seriously ill.

“We were covered in chemicals and breathed in all the fumes all day long.

“No-one ever warned us of any risks and now we are suffering the consequences. “I’m not suing for the money, it is the principle – they need to admit their mistakes.”

Mr Boyd first joined the RAF in Brize Norton in 1982, as a 17-year-old, and served with the forces for more than 10 years.

He was medically discharged after a car accident left him with sight in only one eye.

He later went on to work back at Brize Norton in a civilian team providing catering for flights all over the world.

Mr Boyd – who is now remission from cancer – added: “ I have just had an aggressive form of treatment and it has gone for now.

“But with my old colleagues dying, I  decided I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.”

Military and industrial disease claims expert, Phillip Gower of Simpson Millar solicitors, said: “This is a very disturbing case involving a seriously ill man with an incurable condition.

“With so many ex-RAF workers  now ill or dead, it can be no coincidence that the working conditions were so poor.”

An MoD spokesman said: “We are unable to offer comment on individual or ongoing legal cases.

“However, we can confirm that the health of our serving personnel and veterans continues to be of paramount importance and policies are in place governing the use of hazardous substances and these are strictly enforced. “

RAF Kinloss was closed in 2011 following the scrapping of the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, but reopened as an Army barracks in 2012.

THE HISTORY

There were between 500 and 700 “squippers” who worked on bases across the UK in the 80s and 90s.

They all did exactly the same job as Mr Boyd, using the same chemicals.

Over the last few years, five of his colleagues have died from leukaemia, two of blood cancer, one of brain cancer, one of colon cancer, one of breast cancer, and two from other forms of cancer including oesophagus.

Mr Boyd claims many more of them are living with cancer, with some terminally ill.

Last night he described the grubby working conditions involved with servicing on-board MS 13 life rafts, and their storage boxes, which were routinely “covered in aviation fuel and hydraulic fluid”.

He believes performing a series of tests and puncture repairs – in an unventilated  bay repair room with metal windows – is to blame for the rash of deaths.

“We would often be in there with them for two days and would have to use hard rags and chemicals from five gallon drums to clean them, adding to the stink,” he said.

“We also had to mix glue to repair leaks in the life raft. The only real respite was when you left the building after your shift.”

Mr Boyd said his team also repaired survival equipment and immersion suits for pilots, navigators and aircrew.

He claims they used glues, hardeners, solvents, resins, elastomers and lubricants with no safety equipment, protective masks or coveralls.

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