To this day, the only thing filtering this toxic soup out of the
cabin are the lungs of the passengers and crew.
Aviation Attorney Alisa Brodkowitz
Most airlines today are exceptionally efficient and proud of their safety records they ensure their staff are highly trained with how to deal with emergencies, and their ground staff can spot a potential problem long before it happens. British Airways for example, have had zero crashes in the last 30 years but theres a very important aspect to safety that is being completely ignored by them and other airlines.
And that is regarding the air quality inside cabins.
Have a think about when you fly. Do you ever smell anything strange when you are on the plane, like a weird petrol type of smell? Do you ever feel really awful after you fly? Do you get a headache on board, feel dehydrated, or quickly develop a cold or flu a few days after a flight, and just intuitively know that flying isnt particularly good for your health?
Well consider then what it might be like for the health of the cabin crew, or other frequent flyers. They may feel this way all the time. But something very serious is happening to cabin crew that is far more concerning than just suffering from regular colds and flus.
It has been reported that airline crew members are being made extremely ill and even dying from toxic fumes that are coming inside aircraft cabins during some flights.
Please watch this short video below:
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said that the air is safe and passengers have nothing to worry about, but how can something that is affecting crew not also affect passengers, if we all breathe in the very same air?
What Is Aerotoxic Syndrome?
In 1999, three scientists investigating the ill health many aircrew suffered from came up with the name Aerotoxic Syndrome to describe the different symptoms being experienced after some flights. It was discovered that not only were there toxic chemicals present in modern synthetic jet engine oils, but that those toxins were passing unfiltered into the aircraft cabins, affecting the air that crew and passengers breathe in.
UK Pilot Richard Westgate died in December of 2012. He had fallen ill many years before and felt that it was due to toxic fumes entering the cabin.
Pilot Richard Westgate Officially died from organophosphate induced neurotoxicity
According to online news source news.com.au:
Mr Westgate, who had flown for 15 years, had noted that on start-up, the engines would create puffs of smoke inside the plane followed by an oily smell.
After three years of flying his symptoms started, and progressively worsened to the point where he had severe chest pain, problems walking, and would fall off his bicycle for no reason. He underwent numerous tests and took a range of medications, and was even admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Overall, he saw 15 specialists. But it was only shortly before he was found dead in his hotel room that he was diagnosed with having symptoms related to exposure to plane fumes.
Organophosphates Can Leak Into Cabins During Flights
One of the chemicals giving rise to the most concern is tricresyl phosphate TCP for short which is a member of the organophosphate family of chemicals, originally designed as nerve agents for warfare. This is added to the engine oil as an anti-wear agent, necessary because of the extreme temperatures at which the engines operate.
This wouldnt be a problem if it wasnt for the fact that, back in 1962, a decision was made to change the way air is supplied to the passenger cabins.
How Does The Cabin Air Become Toxic?
Since warm air is needed for engine propulsion and for passengers to breathe, it was decided to combine the two and bring the air through the engine to heat it, then bleed it off and pass it unfiltered into the cabin. It is this bleed air that has been the cause of so much controversy. Every modern jet airliner, apart from the new Boeing 787, uses the bleed air system. There are seals in the engine intended to keep oil out but unfortunately they require air pressure to keep the seal tight, and at times they allow contaminated air to pass into the cabin. Sometimes if the seal is worn or faulty or if the oil is leaking, large amounts can pass into the air supply and these are known in the industry as fume events.
Facts About Bleed Air You Need To Know
- Cabin breathing air on all aircraft apart from the Boeing 787 is taken directly from the engines and provided unfiltered to the aircraft. This is known as bleed air.
- Bleed air is known to become contaminated with engine oils and/or hydraulic fluids.
- Contaminated bleed air events have been recognised as occurring since the 1950s.
- No aircraft currently flying has any form of detection system fitted to warn when these events occur.
- Flight safety is being compromised by contaminated air events.
- Crew and passengers have been reporting short and long term health effects as a consequence of exposure to contaminated air.
- Contaminated air events are not rare and known to be under reported.
Kal Barolia British Airways Crew described by his family as a fit and healthy man died aged 44 unexpectedly at home.
How Will You Know If Your Flight Has Contaminated Air?
Chances are you wont know, because even when the crew know and report the fume event, no one is ever directed to tell the passengers. Signs to look out for include lots of people coughing (who werent coughing before take-off) and others fainting or becoming unwell. Sometimes a mist can be seen in the cabin. Although some fume events are odourless, you should look out for the smell of engine oil, which is often described as a musty smell similar to sweaty socks or an old wet dog.
If you become aware that the air on your flight may be contaminated you should turn off the gasper fan above your head immediately, if there is one, tell a member of the cabin crew, and ask them to report it to the captain. See what British Airways says about contaminated flights here:
Dee Passon BA Flight attendant for 20 years Officially diagnosed with Areotoxic Syndrome
The Most Frequent Symptoms Reported Are:
- sore throats
- sore nose
- nose bleeds
- migraine headache
- flu-like feeling
- muscle aches
- fatigue and breathing difficulties.
Neurological Symptoms Can Also Develop, Such As:
- mental confusion
- panic attacks
Because these chemicals are neurotoxic they can interfere with electrical conduction in the body, resulting in cardiac problems. Some susceptible individuals may also experience a sudden rise in blood pressure, which can then lead to brain haemorrhaging. Chemical pneumonia can develop days or even weeks later as well, since the toxins are inhaled.
Most Doctors Unaware And Many Deny Aerotoxic Syndrome
According to Aerotoxic.org:
Many general medical practitioners are unaware of Aerotoxic Syndrome and may diagnose sufferers with illnesses such as psychological or psychosomatic disorders (i.e., theyll tell you its all in your mind), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), mysterious viral infections, sleep disorders, depression, stress or anxiety or simply jet lag, which is caused by crossing time zones.
Although some of these disorders may form part of Aerotoxic Syndrome, such part-diagnoses on their own miss the root cause of the problem, which is exposure to toxic oil components in a confined space. Furthermore, any misdiagnosis is likely to lead to inappropriate treatments, which may make the condition even worse.
Aviation medicine specialists are aware of the problem but Aerotoxic Syndrome does not seem to have gained official acceptance among the majority of them. Hence, despite (or because of) their expert knowledge they are likely to seek other explanations and there are plenty of neurological symptoms associated with aviation that have nothing to do with inhaling oil.
Consider purchasing one of these masks for you and your family when flying click here for more info.
How To Protect Yourself From Cabin Contamination
If you are concerned about this problem, purchase a face mask with a carbon-activated filter before your flight and wear it for the duration. According to health expert Raymond Francis, the best way to avoid getting ill is to take 1 gram of vitamin C every hour you are in the air.
If you think you were on a flight where there was leakage, you should write to the airline you travelled with and the CAA and report what you experienced. Accordingly, its always a good idea to ask for the aircraft registration and make a note of it.
The short-term symptoms of exposure to contaminated air vary widely depending on which chemicals and the amount you were exposed to, along with your current state of health.
Are you cabin crew, or have friends who are? They need to know about this issue.
Crew Members And Frequent Flyers Most At Risk Of Aerotoxic Syndrome
Crew members and frequent flyers are most at risk, but any flight can suffer a fume event and there may be individuals on board with a genetic inability to detoxify certain chemicals (unbeknownst to them), so it is strongly advisable that everyone carry a face mask with them when they fly.
Rethink that long haul flight with a newborn or infant under 1 year
Also At Risk: Pregnant Women, Babies, Young Children And The Elderly
Those most at risk are pregnant women, babies and young children, the elderly, those recovering from serious illness, those whove undergone chemotherapy, asthmatics, and anyone with an underlying health condition (that they may not even be aware of).
After spending a long time discussing the dangers of flying with a top scientist Dr Michael Kucera who treats the Russian Astronauts, I personally do not recommend taking infants under the age of 12 months on long flights. There are several studies pointing to concerns about cancersbeing more prevalent in flight attendants. In particular, flight attendants and pilots are twice as likely to suffer from melanomas than the general population.
In addition to the potential toxins coming into the cabin, flying also exposes you to higher levels of radiation. The smaller the child, the more likely the radiation can harm their developing and delicate immune system.
The BBC reported this regarding cabin crews exposure to radiation from flying:
In the US, pilots and flight attendants have been officially classed as radiation workers by the Federal Aviation Administration since 1994. Staff regularly working on high-latitude flights are exposed to more radiation than workers in nuclear power plants. Despite this, the airlines dont measure the radiation exposure of their staff, or set safe limits on the doses they can safely receive.
I would like to hope that someone is currently doing a study on how safe it is for infants to fly.
If you are ill after a flight make sure you take information with you on Aerotoxic Syndrome, as many doctors are still not at all aware of its existence and may think you are suffering from a mystery virus. There is still no definitive test available to prove you have been affected by aircraft chemicals and diagnosis is usually made after ruling everything else out.
Aerotoxic Syndrome Treatment
Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of treatment at this stage as more studies need to be done, but a sensible approach is to try to help your body detoxify as quickly as possible: