The Dutch defence ministry has known since 1987 that soldiers were being exposed to highly carcinogenic paints, documents in the hands of broadcaster Nos show.
Letters from health and safety inspectors and minutes of meeting show the defence ministry was aware of the problem but did not take steps to protect staff until 11 years later, the broadcaster says.
One of the documents in the hands of the Nos includes an army commandor stating in 1995 that ‘the number of workers exposed to carcenogenic compounds should not be more than strictly necessary’.
Toxicologists told the broadcaster that by 1994 officials were well aware of how to prevent exposure to substances such as Chromium 6.
The story broke in August when the Volkskrant said reports drawn up on behalf of the army in 1999 and 2002 show defence ministry workers who maintained US tanks and planes stationed in the Netherlands were exposed to high levels of toxic Chromium 6.
Defence minister Jeanine Hennis had told MPs in June there was nothing to suggest workers were being exposed to high concentrations of dangerous chemicals.
That statement followed complaints from soldiers that they may have been made ill by the camouflage paint used in the maintenance of US tanks and jet fighters at five bases in the border regions.
The reports in the hands of the Volkskrant show the base paint used on military equipment contained up to eight times more toxic Chromium 6 than was normal.
More than 100 former defence workers have so far come forward to make a claim against the ministry. They are suffering from cancers and auto-immune diseases and want compensation, the Volkskrant said.
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