A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that the air inside airplane cabins can be “contaminated by pyrolysed engine oil and other aircraft fluids [that] can reasonably be linked to acute and chronic symptoms”, including:
- “eye, nose and throat irritations, skin reactions, recurrent respiratory tract infections and fatigue, nausea and cramps”, and
- “cardiovascular, neurobehavioral, neurological and respiratory symptoms, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, aerotoxic syndrome, cancer, and soft tissue damage.”
A union representing cabin crew members is currently pursuing 67 legal cases against UK airlines, alleging that these crew members were made ill by contaminated cabin air.
The Civil Aviation Authority denies that there is any evidence of long-term, adverse health effects of exposure to cabin air, but says that while “Long term ill health effects due to any toxic effect from cabin air is understood to be unlikely, …such a link cannot be ruled out.”
Since it is estimated that, in 2015, some 3.5 billion passengers and 500,000 pilots and other crew were exposed to engine oils in cabin air, it is obviously critical that the airlines industry and their employees’ unions, as well as organizations advocating the rights of passengers, promptly implement and enforce meaningful standards for healthy in-cabin air.
If they don’t, such standards will be set as a result of litigation that will prove not only to be very expensive for the airlines, but also a completely self-inflicted public relations disaster.