Mon, 14 Mar 2011 19:07 UTC
Most commercial planes are designed to make cabin air by drawing in a compressed supply of it from plane engines. Typically, this "bleed air" is mixed with existing cabin air and recirculated throughout the flight. Unfortunately, this system does not always remove fumes or vapors from the engine. If it malfunctions, these chemical contaminants - including fumes from the oil that lubricates the engine - can result in toxic airplane cabin air.
According to the Aerotoxic Association, this toxic airplane cabin air can result in Aerotoxic Syndrome. Symptoms can range from short-term nausea, light-headedness, and breathing issues to more persistent problems, including neurological damage. Unfortunately, Aerotoxic Syndrome is not widely recognized, and is often misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, "mysterious" viral infections, sleep disorders, depression, stress or anxiety, the Aerotoxic Association says.
"I'm talking because I think passengers need to know," the veteran US Airways flight attendant - who asked to remain anonymous - recently told WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina. "I felt like I had to come forward for the health of myself and my co-workers."
According to the fight attendant, sometime in the past three years she was on an airplane when toxins were released into the cabin - an occurrence known as a fume event. Everyone on board the aircraft was able to smell the fumes in the air, and according to the flight attendant, every crew member has since sought medical attention. Their most common symptoms included headaches and respiratory difficulties.
A spokesman for the U.S. Airways Pilot Association also told WBTV that such fume events have been a problem for fight crews.
"Pilots and flight attendants alike have been sent to the hospital on multiple occasions. Some remain in the hospital," the spokesperson said. "We have pilots who have lost their FAA certificate because of exposure to these toxins. So it is certainly a concern we have."
According to WBTV, it has reported on toxic airplane cabin air that twice caused problems on a U.S. Airways plane in 2010, both of which were confirmed by the airline. One fume event, on Fight 1041 last January, resulted in some crew members being taken to the hospital, though they were released several house later. However, some crew members sickened by the toxic airplane air have yet to return to work.
According to the Association of Flight Attendants, 30 U.S. Airways aircraft on the east coast have been impacted in the past year by toxic airplane air.
However, the flight attendant interviewed by WBTV was quick to point out that U.S. Airways is not the only airline to experience problems with toxic airplane air. Apparently, it is an industry-wide issue.
"One curious and unintended consequence of the aeroplane ban [on smoking] was that airlines began to save money by changing the air in the cabin less frequently. Traditionally, this was done every two minutes and old air was never recirculated, but with no tobacco smoke to draw attention to the quality of air, the carriers reduced air changes to once every twenty minutes. This led to a musty aroma on board and, according to a report in The Lancet, contributed to the appearance of Deep Vein Thrombosis, a disease unknown in airline passengers until the 1990s."Christopher Snowdon - Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: A History of Anti-Smoking