03 July 2008

Kean to meet Haulbowline workers over health fears

Irish Examiner 3/7/08

SOLICITOR to the stars Gerald Kean (pictured) has agreed to advise a number of men who are concerned for their health after working on the Haulbowline Island toxic waste clean-up.

Mr Kean, who represents several Premiership footballers and rock bands, will meet the men tonight to discuss their legal options.

The news emerged last night as Environment Minister John Gormley said he would recommend to cabinet a full baseline health study of residents in Cork Harbour after highly worrying cancer figures from the area were revealed.

The National Cancer Registry (NCR) data showed that Cobh town, which faces the former Irish Ispat steel plant, had cancer rates 44% above the national average from 1994 to 2005.

NCR researcher Dr Sandra Deady stressed, however, that there was nothing to link the findings to the former steel works. She said a wide range of cancers were diagnosed and the risk factors vary greatly depending on the type of cancer. She also said Cobh scored nine out of 10 on a "deprivation-index", the higher the score the higher the cancer risk.

But as the Irish Examiner revealed last week, traces of the carcinogen chromium 6, lead and mercury are among an estimated 500,000 tonnes of toxic waste buried on the island's East Tip site. It is breached by the tidal waters twice a day and winds blow dust across the harbour.

The men who worked on the stalled clean-up spoke out about their health concerns last night. One of the workers, who asked not to be named, said he has serious concerns about the health of up to 35 men, both Irish and non-national, after months of exposure to toxic materials.

He said contaminated soil was scooped up in a special bucket with holes and was riddled, or shaken vigorously, to separate rocks from fine dust. The dust was placed in trucks for shipment to Germany.

"This stuff, this dust, was airborne. It was being blown during the riddling, during transport and while it was stored," he said. "We want to know what we were exposed to, what was in the soil and what tests or screening we should get."

Mr Kean confirmed last night that he will meet a group of the concerned workers tonight at an undisclosed location in Cork. "They expressed their concerns and asked if could I meet them," he said. "They seemed quite upset and very genuine." Mr Kean's firm, Kean & Co, has been involved in several high-profile class-action lawsuits involving asbestos poisoning in the past. It is also involved in several MRSA cases.


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