Legal action claiming that pilots and cabin crew are remains exposed to toxic fumes on a regular basis during flights is being faced by five of the largest airlines in the United Kingdom.
Of the 51 cases for which legal notices have already been sent, most are targeted against the British Airways, said the Unite union.
The legal action over “aerotoxic syndrome” also includes EasyJet, Thomas Cook, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic.
Earlier studies have come out no evidence of cabin air quality resulting in long-term ill-health, the airlines said.
Frequent “fume events” makes pilots and crew vulnerable to air pollution, claims the Unite union, which represents airline staff. Fume events take place when toxic compounds contaminate the air drawn into the aircraft.
Organophosphates and TCP is contained in the fumes which result from the oil used to lubricate the jet engines, says the union. It claimed that long term exposure to the pollutants named can result in chronic ill-health and even life-threatening conditions.
“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,” said Unite’s assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett.
“The airline industry cannot continue to hide from the issue of toxic cabin air whilst placing the health and safety of aircrew at risk.”
In its response, British Airways said that “none of the substantial research conducted over many years” had revealed an y conclusive relationship ill health and cabin air quality.
“We would never operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew,” British Airways said.
The airlines also cited a study that was conducted by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Union airline regulator, in which it was found that the aircraft air quality was “similar or better than that observed in normal indoor environments”.
In order to support its claims that the air “in most commercial airline cabins can cause irreversible neurological damage and chronic illness among susceptible individuals”, in court, independent expert evidence, which it possess, would be produced in court, Unite said.
An investigation into the safety of cabin air was called for by the union in addition to supporting the legal action. Other oil that are reportedly less likely to cause toxic fumes could be used by airlines, it suggested. The union also called for installation of air filters and a better monitoring of cabin air.
Its aircraft were “fully compliant with the latest standards in terms of air quality and air-conditioning”, EasyJet said. “EasyJet takes any health concerns raised by its crew seriously. However, aviation regulators and manufacturers around the world have looked at this issue and found no proof that long-term health issues arise from cabin air quality,” it added.
While acknowledging that “fume events” did occur, the budget airline said that there can be some minor acute symptoms because of the fume events. But there was no evidence to show any long term health impacts because of the fume events.
(Adapted from BBC.com)