Tuesday, April 03, 2007

CARC paint and deployment illness Gulf War

The report includes important lessons learned from painting operations during the Gulf War. One point is that there are risks to the use of CARC paint - something Prather hopes the environmental exposure report draws attention to.

"We hope the CARC paper does a lot to publicize the fact that while CARC painting is hazardous, it can be done safely if you use the proper equipment," he said.

He also says the risk can be significantly reduced with a little bit of training and the right equipment. For that reason, he feels that people should be prepared in advance for painting operations like the ones tasked to the 325th Maintenance Company.

The component of CARC that's most likely to be harmful is a compound called hexamethylene diisocyanate. If painters inhale high concentrations of it during a spray-painting operation, they could suffer from watery eyes, coughing or shortness of breath. Long-term exposure could lead to respiratory problems. The effects are well known, Prather says.

Of the 300 people he examined physically, 60 came back "completely different." They could not perform physical tests which they had breezed through before. Many in this group had been part of a work detail repainting vehicles with CARC paint--Chemical Agent Retardant Coating--which if applied to OSHA standards would have painters virtually wearing scuba gear, with outside air sources and completely covered. In the wartime sensibility prevailing in the Gulf, the soldiers painted hundreds of vehicles using only particle masks. As obvious as this problem seemed, Pettyjohn encountered resistance from higher-ups, though now these CARC cases are receiving care from the VA.

CARC coatings need to be resistant to chemicals that are required to decontaminate military equipment that has been exposed to chemical and/or biological warfare agents. After cleaning with these decontamination chemicals, vehicles treated with CARC can be placed back into service immediately, without stripping and repainting. There have been several generations of CARC coatings. According to published sources, the military specifications for these coatings vary with the type of equipment to be use