Frequent fliers and pregnant women ‘at risk from toxic air in aircraft cabins’

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IF you’re a frequent flyer, or taking a flight while pregnant, then a recent report reveals that the air you breathe on board could be dangerous to your health.

A study of 200 pilots and cabin crew, published in the summer, revealed some serious health problems for the airline staff when engine fumes leaked into the passenger cabin.

 Frequent fliers are more at risk along with cabin crew, pilots and pregnant women

Getty – Contributor
Frequent fliers are more at risk along with cabin crew, pilots and pregnant women

The original study focused on ‘fume events’ which means one-off situations where fumes from the engine enter the cabin accidentally.

However, the i newspaper delved further into the finding and found many experts suspected that air is routinely becoming contaminated.

In other words, bad air is being breathed by all air passengers, all the time.

In the original report, pilots and crew who had been on planes when a fume leak had occurred, suffered symptoms like headhaches, dizziness and breathing and vision problems.

More serious effects like heart, nerve and brain damage were also reported in some cases and the report’s lead writer thinks we should all be taking notice.

Because planes fly at high altitude, where air is too thin to breathe, the air in the cabin is pumped straight from the engine at high pressure to make it breathable.

Dr Susan Michaelis, the report writer, noted: “Oil seals are not a foolproof design and so the air breathed in the passenger cabin on every flight will contain low levels of leaked oil.”

 Cabin crew are at risk from repeated exposure to leaked oil in the air

Getty – Contributor
Cabin crew are at risk from repeated exposure to leaked oil in the air

One substance which could be regularly leaking into the air you’re breathing on board is tricresyl phosphate (TCP) which is listed as possibly causing harm to unborn babies by the EU hazard classification system.

TCP is also listed as affecting fertility and pregnant women are more susceptible to exposure to these toxic chemicals so have serious cause for concern if they fly regularly.

The air on board planes comes straight from the engine but is then filtered and re-used.

These filters remove germs and bacteria, though they can’t stop you catching a cold from the person sat next to you, and they don’t remove these toxic engine fumes.

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Colin Soskolne, a health professor at the University of Alberta is clear on the dangers: “The reality of the air they are breathing should be of concern to passengers.”

“It is clearly shown that it can contain very harmful contaminants that can severely impact the health of susceptible passengers.”

While scientists are in agreement that there is a risk associated with air being sent straight into the passenger cabin without filtering, the airlines themselves aren’t convinced.

 Air is sucked into a jet engine at high pressure and some of this air is sent into the cabin for passengers to breathe

Getty – Contributor
Air is sucked into a jet engine at high pressure and some of this air is sent into the cabin for passengers to breathe

EasyJet deny there is any link between cabin crew illnesses and exposure to fumes.

Despite denying there is any risk from contaminated air, EasyJet are going to be the first airline to fit filters to clean up the air before it gets to the holidaymakers.

EasyJet are claiming it’s just a measure to avoid any ‘fume events’ in future, the move has nevertheless been welcomed by worried scientists and airline staff.

This is what flight attendants do on an empty plane
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