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British Airways cabin (photo: Stuart Bailey/British Airways)

“Toxic cabin air” risks airline crew health

A union representing pilots and cabin crew has begun legal action against five airlines, telling them to clean the air on board.

Cabin crew and pilots are constantly exposed to toxic air, a union claims. The Unite union in the UK has begun legal action against five airlines, telling them to clean the air on their planes.

It is demanding an inquiry into what it calls “toxic cabin air” contaminated by engine fumes containing organophosphates and TCP used to pressurise airline cabins, TTG reports.

“Expert evidence” shows that long-term exposure to cabin air or “fume events” can cause irreversible neurological damage and chronic illness, Unite says.

Airlines must use safer oils to lubricate jet engines and fit cabins with air filters, the union stresses.

Chemicals and compounds
The five named in the legal action are easyJet, British Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines, Jet2.com and Virgin Atlantic.

“Independent expert evidence concludes that air on board jet planes can contain a toxic mix of chemicals and compounds that potentially damage the nervous system and may lead to chronic irreversible health problems in susceptible individuals,” explains Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary for legal services at Unite.

“The airline industry cannot continue to hide from the issue of toxic cabin air while placing the health and safety of aircrew at risk.”

A British Airways spokesperson tells TTG: “We would never operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew. None of the substantial research conducted over many years into cabin air quality has shown that exposure to cabin air causes long-term ill health.”

BA adds: “In recent research commissioned by the regulator the European Aviation Safety Agency, their thorough investigations concluded that the air quality on board aircraft was similar or better than that observed in normal indoor environments.”

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