Pilots and flight attendants are reporting toxic fumes being released into planes. The accidental release of toxins has caused flight crew members to become sick and some hospitalized. A year later, some of those affected are still off work, looking for answers and want something done about it.
A month-long investigation by WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina revealed 30 US Airways aircraft in the last year have been affected.”I’m talking because I think passengers need to know,” said one veteran flight attendant to WBTV who came forward under the condition we protected her identity. “I felt like I had to come forward for the health of myself and my co-workers.”
Apparently, toxins produced from the oil in aircraft engines are the culprit. I’m thinking of that smell that fills the cabin as the plane prepares for departure. Airlines say it’s harmless. One US Airways pilot disagrees and is concerned.
“Toxins produced from oil in the aircraft engines have caused a lot of problems with our industry,” Captain Jame Ray, a spokesperson for the U.S. Airways Pilot Association and a working pilot told WBTV. “Pilots and flight attendants alike have been sent to the hospital on multiple occasions. Some remain in the hospital. We have pilots who have lost their FAA certificate because of exposure to these toxins. So it is certainly a concern we have.”
The investigation confirmed a January 2010 case where crew members were hospitalized and are still not back at work. Another case in November of 2010, ruled not toxic fumes but a power issue at the gate resulted in aircraft crew off work too.
Airline flight crew members interviewed were quick to point out that this sort of thing does not happen on every flight but that all airlines are affected. The issue seems to be more widespread than the risk of swine flu once was and as airlines regain a more healthy financial picture, others are digging in to this toxic fumes problem more.
Looking a bit deeper into the issue of toxic fumes found on planes, a 2009 survey of pilots and crew by the UK’s The Telegraph indicated that one in seven of 789 British airline staff surveyed had to take more than a month’s sick leave in the previous year.
Further investigation revealed “high levels of a dangerous toxin on several planes. Of 31 swab samples taken secretly from the aircraft cabins of popular airlines, 28 were found to contain high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate contained in modern jet oil as an anti-wear additive, which can lead to drowsiness, respiratory problems and neurological illnesses.”
While all flights may not be affected, it happens with more frequency than one might imagine. Aerotoxic Syndrome’s YouTube channel stacks up evidence of these fume events longer than planes lined up at LAX on a Friday afternoon.