THE British military uses cancer-causing chemicals to rust-proof its vehicles, The Herald can reveal, sparking new concerns for the health of servicemen and women.

Defence chiefs have confirmed that highly toxic Chromium-VI - the substance at the heart of the Erin Brockovich poison scandal in the United States - is still being used by UK armed forces.

Their admission comes after the Dutch government was last year forced to apologise to hundreds of military personnel who had been exposed to the chemical. It is now paying out compensation.

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Separately, US soldiers who became ill after handling paint containing Chromium-VI, which is also called hexavalent Chromium, have been awarded multi-million-dollar damages.

Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew said the MoD was currently researching alternatives to rust-proofing paint which contains Chromium-VI.

However, West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, of the SNP, said it had taken too long for the UK to learn lessons from other countries. He said: “It is simply incredible to me that, decades after the dangers of hexavalent chromium became known, that the MoD is still using a noxious, cancer-causing chemical in maintenance of military vehicles — especially as it has been so controversial in many neighbouring countries.

“Yet, as we have seen in the cases of asbestos in defence platforms or of the anti-malarial drug Lariam prescribed to serving personnel, the MoD often needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into addressing the most basic issues of health and safety.”

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In a formal written answer to Mr Docherty-Hughes, Mr Andrew said: “The MoD is committed to managing and reducing hazardous substances and restricted materials throughout the lifetime of equipment to reduce the risk of harm to both human health and the environment.

“However, hexavalent Chromium is still used when necessary. The MoD has instigated testing and evaluation of chromate-free paint products since 2012. This research is due to finish in 2019.”