Monday 25 September 2017

Toxic fumes in airplane cabins 'pose risk to passengers'

Claims follow death of co-pilot

A coroner has warned that toxic fumes in plane cabins pose a risk of health damage to aircrew and frequent fliers (Getty)
A coroner has warned that toxic fumes in plane cabins pose a risk of health damage to aircrew and frequent fliers (Getty)

Alan Martin

A coroner has warned that toxic fumes in plane cabins pose a risk of health damage to aircrew and frequent fliers.

Sheriff Stanhope Payne, the senior coroner for Dorset in England, said those regularly exposed to such fumes faced "consequential damage to their health".

His comments were made in a Regulation 28 report, to prevent further deaths, following initial investigations into the death of a co-pilot.

Richard Westgate (43), a co-pilot for British Airways, died in December 2012, believing he had been poisoned by repeated exposure to contaminated cabin air.

Mr Payne's report, sent to British Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority, raised five serious matters of concern about contaminated air.

Frank Cannon, of Cannons Law Practice, acting on behalf of Mr Westgate's family, said industry had denied that toxic contamination was present 20 years ago.

Mr Cannon said the industry had stated that such contamination "won't do you any harm" after tests established its presence in aircraft cabins.

After cases of harm emerged, the position became that the contamination was below minimum safety levels, Mr Cannon claimed.

"Minimum safety levels are a fallacy, with no known scientific basis," he said. "Real neurotoxic injury is caused by long-term low-level exposure.

"When a plane lands, the passengers get off, but the crew turn around and do the same thing all over again, day in, day out."

It is common for airlines to use warm, compressed air taken directly from aircraft engines to pressurise the cabin. This is known as 'Bleed Air' and can become contaminated with engine oils and hydraulic fluids, according to the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE), a lobby group for air crew.

"Contaminated bleed air events have been recognised as occurring since the 1950s," it said. "Flight safety is being compromised by contaminated air events."

A spokeswoman for BA said: "We will respond to the coroner in due course."

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