MPs are calling for all passenger aircraft to be fitted with devices to detect contaminated air in a bid to protect staff and passengers from potential health problems.
They have raised concerns about the quality of air circulating in the cabins of aircraft and so-called ‘aerotoxic syndrome’.
Passenger planes have a system on board that compresses air from the engines and uses it to pressurise the cabin. However, this can fail causing excess oil particles to enter the air supply and leave those on board with serious illness.
What is aerotoxic syndrome?
Aerotoxic syndrome is the name given to illnesses apparently caused by exposure to contaminated air in aircraft, although it is not a recognised medical condition.
Symptoms are said to include fatigue, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, dizziness, headaches, vomiting or nausea.
For short exposures, the effects are usually reversible and will resolve themselves in due course. But serious or repeated low-dose exposures can lead to severe symptoms. There have been reports of permanent neurological damage caused by prolonged exposure.
The Aerotoxic Association is currently campaigning to have the syndrome officially recognised by medical professionals.
Call to arms
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, raised the issue in a Westminster debate.
He said his constituency has a terrible legacy of asbestos and mesothelioma, so he is more than willing to tackle issues relating to industrial safety. This includes doing much more to assess the issue of contaminated air, both in passenger planes and in the workplace.
No aircraft currently flying has any form of detection system fitted to warn crews when the cabin air has become contaminated.
Mr Reynolds recommended fitting air quality devices to monitor if and when so-called “fume events” – when engine oil or hydraulic fluid fumes leak into cabin air – happen.
But Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said there is no need for monitoring devices as there is little evidence to suggest change is needed.
Date Published: April 8, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown