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Year 2003 No. 114, November 24, 2003 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Campaign in Support of West Country Aerospace Worker

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Campaign in Support of West Country Aerospace Worker

When "David" Took On Goliath - One Dying Worker Challenges The Corporate Giants

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Campaign in Support of West Country Aerospace Worker

Nibby David became ill whilst working in the aerospace industry in the West Country. His symptoms started three weeks after starting work and progressively worsened over the years he continued in his job until life-threatening ill health finally forced him to stop work in 1995.

The cause of his illness was a mystery to him until 2000 when tests showed he was riddled with Depleted Uranium, presumably picked up form his workplace. His health continues to worsen and has moved to the seaside in Devon as the fresh air helps him.

The medical authorities and benefits agency did not recognise Nibby’s illness as being caused by DU as a result of which he has been unable to get the DLA he should be entitled to. As a result he has been living on Incapacity Benefit and has had to continue paying full council tax and rent. The whole of his benefits amounts to less than his monthly rent by a sum of £9-10 a month.

Because of kidney damage caused by the DU Nibby should be on a special high potassium diet recommended by his doctor as vital in minimising the risk of cardiac arrest. However day to day budgeting for "living" including food is often compromised, as a consequence of which Nibby can rarely keep to this special diet, placing him at further risk.

Because he is trying to prove that his illness is caused by DU poisoning, he has automatically forfeited any chance of getting Life Insurance, as it does not cover any illnesses caused by radiation.

Nibby has been made an honorary Gulf War Veteran on the basis that he is suffering from the same uranium poisoning as the veterans, as a result of his previous employment.

Broadly one third of Gulf War veterans in the US and Britain are suffering from damage to their health linked with uranium poisoning. In the recent war on Iraq it is estimated that ten times more DU was dropped than in the first Gulf War and troops will end up suffering from the same devastating illnesses.

Nibby has a court case in the West Country pending next year to try and get compensation for his injuries. His case is a simple personal injury case, but he is aware of many others in a similar position who will benefit if he wins.

Because of the importance of the case world wide, expert witnesses from round the world will be giving evidence. These witnesses have already tested Nibby using unique specialised facilities not readily available to many suffering from DU poisoning. These tests show that Nibby has DU in his body and has genetic damage resulting from proven damage from internal radiation.

A Nibby David DU Support Fund has been set up. Donations should be sent to the fund at: P.O. Box 98, Greenleaf Bookshop, Bristol BS1 5BB.

Or contact nddusupportfund@burntmail.com

Article Index

When "David" Took On Goliath - One Dying Worker Challenges The Corporate Giants

By Davey Garland*

The east Devon – west Dorset coastline has a history of producing and harbouring various trouble makers, be it from the pirates and wreckers that inhabited these shores, attacking and sinking trading vessels in the 18th Century, or to supporting disputed heirs to the British crown such as the Duke of Monmouth, landing his ill-fated cause against James I in 1685. Upon the shingled beach at Seaton, a new challenger picks and rolls selected pebbles in his hands as he gently tosses them into the morning breakers. This person goes by the name of Richard David, or Nibby to his friends, and is set to start in motion one of the most controversial and difficult civilian claims against an employer over direct "toxic kill" levels and radiological contamination yet to materialise, unprecedented in that the main cause to the collapse in Nibby’s health is disputed to be depleted uranium (DU).

In his tiny home not far from the seafront, Nibby reflects upon the last 15 years of his life, the steady deterioration in his own health, and death of his former work mates, colleagues and friends. Nibby was an engineer and machinist between 1985 – 1995, working for an aerospace firm sharing the same site in Somerset, known world wide for producing and designing helicopters and other parts for the industry. In the last few years he has discovered that DU was used at the worksite during the period 1966 – 1982, with possibly DU oxides emanating from helicopter ballast floating around his area of operation. Nibby’s own task was in fine-finishing metal components, with a scouring pad, producing a fine almost invisible dust resembling talcum powder, being inhaled in each breath, which would settle upon the work place and employees clothing. This metal he now accepts was possibly uranium combined with titanium to form a metal alloy.

Nibby’s daily prescribed medication lies out in a coloured line on his dressing table, a pile of pills which includes painkillers, a steroid inhaler, medication for lowered potassium, and diuretic tablets. It was 1985 when he first noticed upper respiratory complications, though conventional doctors failed to acknowledge these health problems. Through an acupuncturist friend, he was warned that his liver was under duress. The ailment continued, and in 1989, with Union representation, Nibby’s employer sent him for a full medical investigation, but again they found nothing. Strangely this visit was never sent on to his own GP for comment. In reflection Nibby, acknowledges that those years were of constant pain, plus a growing discolouration and change in skin texture and feeling especially in his fingers. This was another mystery area to press upon the families mind. Nibby’s body failed him in many ways and at times, termed an "existence" rather than life of husband, father and friend.

In 1990, top specialist in London began a union sponsored investigation of respiratory problems. He was not able to see the conclusions of this report until 1996, which did in fact show that long-term bi-lateral inflammation had caused permanent scarring of his windpipe. By that time, Nibby’s health had deteriorated further, showing increased breathlessness and incapacity, with no amount of antibiotic's or inhalers solving the problem. Joint pain and muscular spasms made it almost impossible for him to walk, and x-rays, showed that both lungs had been permanently scarred and shrunk. In the next two years, other anomalies occurred, including chronic fatigue, and various lumps growing upon his skull, adding further pain and distress. Heartache continued, when he was eventually diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder called Gitlemans syndrome. Nibby reaches for another photograph, which was taken in the early 1980s of him riding a bike, his face full of colour and cheer. He then opens his hands to show himself now. For a man in his early 40s who had never smoked, was a keen athlete and embraced life fully, then these debilitating symptoms were and are a living nightmare.

Attempts to legally challenge his employer had begun in 1993, when his union had persuaded him to meet a lawyer, who bluntly told him that he didn’t stand a chance and there was nothing wrong with him. Nibby has travelled through three legal phases of his case with the company since 1990, starting off with trying to prove a toxic environment and in 1996, he tried to acquire union legal assistance when his lung disease was confirmed, but this was dropped in 1997, due to poor medical./legal advice Undefeated, Nibby borrowed £500 to issue a high court writ himself, but even in gathering all of his evidence, no medical expert would touch his case. Fortunately enough, he was able to find a solicitor, and an out of court settlement was reached. However, three weeks after this incident, came the devastating news, that his results from independent testing from the Uranium Medical Research Centre in Canada, run under the auspices of Professor Durakovic, showed undisputedly that his body was contaminated with depleted uranium. Further testing in Berlin has shown chromosomal damage, which could have of only occurred through radiation exposure and like many gulf veterans, who similarly proved positive in these tests, far more likely in doubling their risk to cancer. He immediately set about putting in a legal bid, but by this time, any chance of legal aid had been phased out for personal injury claims, and his lawyers after initial support suggested that he would not be able to substantiate these, as his previous employer would defend all allegations, "scarring any solicitor into submission". Before this episode Nibby was never aware that he was working with uranium-based metals, and certainly they were never told or given any directions in protection. It is certainly the end of an ‘illusion" that DU is only a military concern, and now points to the stark reality that this pernicious substance is present and a danger to the general public.

Though Nibby is trying to secure an out-come that will make his life easier, as he is presently unable to secure any benefits, and his wife working all hours to make ends meet, he feels this case is not about just him any more, but all those victims both civilian and veterans who have been contaminated by DU. He looks at the pictures of his work mates, most of whom are now dead or dying of lung cancer or heart problems in their 40s and 50s. Even his managing director died of throat cancer directly after retirement. He believes that, like himself, this work-force was exposed to radioactive and poisonous substances. Having been a county councillor for some years, Nibby had access to various environmental health reports, and began to research the subject of DU/uranium contamination on his own. In the last few years, Nibby has now established close contacts with many specialists and scientists who support and confirm that Nibby was in contact with radiological substances. Like many others, he finds that his case is not alone, and that many unsuspecting victims like him have been contaminated. He quotes two examples: firstly in Britain, the many scrap metal industry workers who were not aware that they were handling metal contaminated with radioactive DU. And secondly, after the El Al plane with still unknown cargo crashed in Amsterdam in 1992, over 800 families and many clean up workers have reported similar symptoms to that of veterans and other civilian victims. Hundreds of kilograms of DU counterweights in the plane burned in the crash, contaminating the neighbourhood with deadly uranium oxide smoke.

Nibby’s constant condemnation of the aerospace industry which still uses this heavy metal, has also opened the discussion to how much uranium based metals are being used generally within civilian life. In the US, some advocates of recycling DU have hinted that such metals could be used in everyday household products, with DU reportedly having been used some years ago in the dental industry, and within the building industry. In the UK, this concern is already being realised with some union representatives, who wish not to be named, claiming that these metals have already proliferated into a vast array of various products such as flywheels and clutches, with again very few employees aware of their danger.

At the recent World Uranium Weapons Conference in Hamburg, Nibby spoke passionately of the need to expose this cover-up over the effects of uranium metals be it in the workplace or battlefield, and that there is a concerted efforts by the manufactures, government and military to hide the facts from an ever worried public. It is evident that the nuclear industry with its waste problems are increasingly looking towards finding an outlet, be it overtly or covertly, and are able if need be to conceal the source and composition of the materials being used even if they are of a radioactive origin. Nibby’s position is just the tip of the iceberg, and though he has had some union support, they are still silent, possibly worried about the outcome and loss of jobs, if it were ever discovered that these metals are being constantly worked upon with no safety or health prevention measures put in place. Can the international trade union and anti-globalisation movement be intransigent, if so many workers and an unsuspecting public are at risk from the proliferation of this toxic metal? Science says no amount of exposure to radiation is too small to cause damage, and in the case of DU, which is an alpha emitter, and so does its damage once it is ingested and inside the body, then the findings and case studies from Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Iraq, where DU and uranium weapons were used, fully illustrate that the long term prognosis is very bleak indeed.

Back on Seaton beach, Nibby catches his breath, but manages to smile optimistically. Staring out to sea, he knows that the next few months will be trying and tiring, but already, people are beginning to work both locally and internationally to support his cause and to spread information about the use of DU and other radioactive weapons/substances. This time when David goes to meet Goliath, there will be a large crowd behind him, each hoping to throw a stone that will break this deadly charade and finally expose the truth over this metal.

For those who want to support this campaign, or raise funds for the Nibby David DU Support Fund, then contact: nddusupportfund@burntmail.com

  1. Davey Garland is co-ordinator of the Pandora DU Research Project, and is working with an alliance of other anti-DU/nuclear groups, environmentalists, trade-unionists and veterans for a moratorium on all radioactive weapons.
    For more details contact: pduproject@yahoo.co.uk

Footnote: Use of depleted uranium in weapons is illegal according to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, beginning with its pronouncements in resolutions in 1996 and 1997, and then in reports prepared at its request submitted and accepted in 1997, 2002 and 2003. In particular, the 2002 and 2003 reports (UN Docs. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2002/38 and E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/35 prepared by Chief Justice Yueng Sik Yuen, Supreme Court, Mauritius) clearly indicate that weapons with depleted uranium are necessarily indiscriminate (weapons of indiscriminate effect, or WIE) and cause superfluous and unnecessary suffering. This makes their use incompatible with existing rules of armed combat. It is highly regrettable that neither the United States nor Britain fully acknowledges the lethality of DU weapons, although studies made in the US years ago attest to awareness of it. And, there are increasing calls for a moratorium on the use of DU weapons due to their inherent illegality. But no matter if DU vaporised in the heat of weapons or when metal is drilled or sanded in a factory, the physical effects are the same. And those exposed due to ruthless use of DU weapons in war or from factories making use of it have a right to both full disclosure, the highest standard of medical care, and, of course, and compensation.

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