Air Reserve Technicians demand answers

The alarm is being raised at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi by Air Reserve Technicians claiming that they were exposed to a chemical that could be the reason behind several deaths and illnesses among them. Retired Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Tamla McGhee, 45, who served with the 403rd Fabrication Flight from 2001 to 2012 said, “One thing I told my dad … I have never seen so many people in one squadron pass away from cancer,”.

According to an article published by McClatchy DC, the unit was comprised of about 15 or more reservists at a time who were tasked with removing corrosion, welding and drilling new parts, blasting off old paint, and repainting aircraft. Recently two of the Air Force Reserve Techs passed away. “Air Force Reserve Tech Sgt. Sean Delcambre died Aug. 5 at age 34 from advanced-stage Hodgkin’s disease and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which are blood cancers. Up to his final hours, Sean and his wife Amy Delcambre, 36, had remained positive about his ability to beat cancer. It was another tragic loss after their son Jude was born prematurely in 2014 and died the day after Christmas at 33 weeks.”

Two weeks after their deaths, the families of the servicemen are speaking out to try to raise awareness about hexavalent chromium, a chemical linked to cancer that they believe caused their deaths. Exposure to this chemical can occur during activities like industrial welding and paint spraying, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The article continued by saying, “Air Force documents obtained by McClatchy show that inside the unit’s workspace contamination by unsafe levels of the potentially harmful substances dated back to at least 2011 for lead and 2012 for hexavalent chromium. McDonald provided paperwork to McClatchy on an inspector general complaint he filed in 2016 about the lack of a working filtration system to deal with the chemicals. The existence of the Air Force documents reporting above-acceptable levels of hexavalent chromium in the break room was first reported by local Biloxi TV station WLOX.”

A spokeswoman for Keesler Air Force Base was quoted as saying, “We have instituted OSHA approved mitigating processes to ensure the safety of our members until state-of-the-art upgrades can be made to our facilities,” Jessica Kendziorek, a spokeswoman for the base, said, “New machinery used for removing paint was installed in 2016, she said, but “is currently not in use, until a climate-controlled environment can be obtained.”

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