Contaminated Aircraft Cabin Air - comments on aerotoxic Issues

Since 2006, HolidayTravelWatch has noted the suggestion amongst the submissions to the Committee on Toxicity (COT), that symptoms of illness highlighted by crew and passengers, following their exposure to fumes on aircraft, were akin to the condition of ‘hyperventilation’!  This simplistic conclusion has continued to be perpetuated in the following year’s right up to 2012!

HolidayTravelWatch has campaigned for many years on the issue of public safety, and considers that the issue of Contaminated Cabin Air or Aerotoxic fumes on-board aircraft to be potentially one of the most serious public health safety issues to arise in recent years, if not an International Scandal due to the inaction by governments and industry.

In promoting the campaign for uncontaminated air on-board aircraft, HolidayTravelWatch wishes to make clear that this is not an attack on any industry or government. They must all surely recognise that in the battle between safety and the balance sheet, safety must always prevail. If industries believe that they are correct, then they must produce unequivocal evidence that proves their position. If they are unable to do so, both they and Government must err on the side of caution, and take steps to protect pilots, cabin crew and passengers without delay. After all, they and their families are also consumers in the so-called flight revolution!

The debate that counters the view of the Aviation Industry and Government, points to the substantial evidence, showing the decades old history of pyrolised oil leaking into aircraft air supplies, as is demonstrated in the ‘Aviation Contaminated Air reference Manual’. This manual has also been identified as the leading source of information on this issue, by the Royal Australian Air Force.  The chemicals released by the high temperatures within the aircraft engine, provide for a toxic cocktail which is held to the cause of serious injury to pilots, crew and passengers.

Given our long history of campaigning, we have decided to adopt the continuing and prevailing theme of hyperventilation, as highlighted to COT, and employ the method used to treat such a condition, as our emblem for this campaign. HolidayTravelWatch has therefore launched the ‘Brown Bag Campaign’ to highlight the less than satisfactory approach to the health and well-being of all those who use or work on-board aircraft.

The image of the Brown Bag represents a solution to the person suffering with hyperventilation, whilst at the same time; the bio-hazard symbol on our ‘brown bag’ represents the hidden danger to pilots, cabin crew and passengers.

Many pilots, cabin-crew and passengers report smoke or fume events on board aircraft. These ‘fume events’ arise because the air supply used in most aircraft, is based on the ‘bleed air’ supply system. Simply, your air on board comes directly through the aircraft’s engine. Due to design characteristics of the way the bleed air system works, the pyrolised (this is where the chemicals in the oil undergo chemical changes) products from aviation oils, leaking through the engine seals, can provide smells or mist within the flight deck or passenger cabin. Pyrolised products contain a range of chemicals amongst which are Organophosphates, and in particular Tri-Cresyl Phosphate. The neurotoxic effects on an individuals health can be extremely debilitating, and affect their health either permanently, or for many years following exposure.


However, while the debate rages on the effects of Organophosphates, and Inhalation of the mixture of substances in engine oils, is there anything that can be done to reduce the leakage into an aircraft? Yes! We understand that if £15 to £20k was spent on each aircraft flying today, supplying filters to prevent such a leakage as the air comes from the engine, then crew and passenger health would be protected. Airlines will point out that this would cost them many millions of pounds. This is correct, however, how many passengers would object to paying a premium on the price of their air ticket if it meant that they could be confident that they would not be exposed to components of pyrolised products? The benefit to an airline could be that they could then guarantee a clean air supply to its employees and passengers; this would surely have a benefit on sales?

We have written many articles on this scandal and if you want to learn more about this problem, then visit our Aerotoxic section; if you have been affected by exposure to fumes in the aircraft or the cockpit, then talk to us for free help and advise!

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