It's another Agent Orange," he says. It's too late for me, but I know they're still using the stuff. It's Department of Defensewide; they use it in every branch of the service. And the guys who are using the stuff don't have any idea that it can hurt them."

The petrochemical typically lodges in bone marrow, liver and body fat, interfering with the body's capacity to produce white blood cells. In a 1985 study, the Environmental Protection Agency cited epidemiological studies-involving people, not lab animals-in a report that showed exposure to airborne benzene at levels of ten parts per million or less, for one year or less, increased the chances of developing cancer by 560 percent. Exposure for five or more years increased the cancer risk by 2,100 times.

Other studies are more alarming. In May 1987, the California Air Resources Board released a report stating benzene emissions from gasoline stations significantly increase the cancer risk of people who refuel their own vehicles or simply live near stations. The study showed that benzene fumes could cause between 7 and 51 cases of cancer among every one million people who use self-service gas stations.

Mike Page says he was exposed to benzene fumes nearly every day for 20 years and that the Air Force never informed him of the potential risks. While material safety data sheets supplied by the manufacturers of P-D-680 advise the use of respirators and gas masks, Air Force documents that Page has compiled make no mention of any potential cancer risk and state that good general ventilation is normally adequate." In practice, Page says, open vats" of the solvent sit around closed shops and the only precautions generally taken with its use are rubber gloves. And that's to prevent dermatitis, to keep your hands from drying out," Page says. And that's not really practical when you're reaching up to snug up a nut or something, that's not done with gloves on. It runs all down your arms."

Exposure to the fumes, Page says, is constant.
It comes in 55-gallon drums. We screw a faucet in it and leave a bucket hanging over the faucet," Page says. Guys slosh it on with paintbrushes, with whatever is handy. On cold days, they seal the shop up as tight as they can, and you're just breathing the stuff."

Air Force technical manuals from 1988-which Page says still are in effectÏdo caution that P-D-680 is toxic to skin, eyes and respiratory tract," but they don't warn mechanics it is carcinogenic. And there are no warning labels on the drums.

A former chief master sergeant at Luke who asks not be identified remembers that P-D-680 was considered so benign that during the 1970s some airmen slathered it on their cheeks after shaving.

You'd come home drenched in it," he says. Nobody thought anything about it."
It's good stuff, it really does work good," Page says. Too good. One thing that shows up in your job performance, if you're a good mechanic you return parts clean. That boosts the confidence of the guys who fly the planes. I can't speak for the guys in the motor shop, but if they know about it, they'll use it, too. They couldn't not use it. It's too good a product."

Page, who was hospitalized in early May, expects to leave the hospital soon. He and his wife, Mary Ann, say they're still planning to operate a lodge in the Rockies. The movers are scheduled to haul their belongings to Colorado this week.

THE MARINARA-GO-ROUND... v5-27-92

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2 comments
AgeMonkey46
AgeMonkey46

I spent 8 years in the Air Force working as a ground equipment mechanic and was exposed heavily to P-D-680. We used it liberally and safety equipment was a joke. No respirators, no good intact clean gloves (all the gloves had holes in them and were too large to use). 

 Now I have asthma from breathing the fumes and now I gotta worry about the cancer, oye.

cvaughn919
cvaughn919

oh no.  i spent 15 yrs active duty Navy mostly on ships.  we used PD 680 to "clean" stuff because it worked really really good.  Especially for inspections.  Nobody EVER said it was dangerous.  Ack.  The next agent orange?  We did not even use gloves just a rag and bucket usually no safety equipment whatsoever.  Guess I ought to bring up with my doctor at next check up :(

 
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