Many more defence workers were exposed to toxic paint


A new investigation by health institute RIVM has shown that exposure of army personnel to toxic chromium paint was much more widespread than previously assumed.

An earlier report by the RIVM had already shown that the defence ministry failed to protect maintenance staff at five Nato depots who came into contact with the toxic paint in the 1970s and 80s.

Workers were exposed directly to chromium 6 while sanding and spraying coats of paint on Nato vehicles. Chromium 6 is carcinogenic and can also cause other lung problems.

The latest RIVM report, which was seven years in the making, is based on information about 1,573 workers at 229 locations. The report states that the number of people who came into contact with chromium 6 includes, for instance, drivers who were lending a hand and people who were present in the same space as where the paint was used.

Workers who were exposed to the substance at all 229 locations will now be included in the compensation scheme already in place for the Nato vehicle maintenance workers. They are also free to sue for damages.

The scheme has come in for criticism because many former defence workers have health problems which the RIVM does not recognise as chromium 6 related.

In Tilburg, where NS failed to protect workers involved in chromium 6 paint removal from old trains between 2004 and 2011, all workers were offered a compensation package, including those who did not (yet) present symptoms.

By the end of last year, the defence ministry had received some 900 claims for compensation but fewer than half were accepted.

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