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Environment Respiratory

Study Finds that Flights Can Make Aircrew Sick

4 months ago

3013  0
Posted on Aug 17, 2017, 9 a.m.

According to research from the University of Stirling, working on an airplane may put your health at risk.

Many young people aspire to a career as a flight attendant or pilot for one of the major airline companies. This type of work can be very exciting since it includes free travel to destinations around the world, although the schedule can be demanding at times. While it is true that pilots and flight attendants have chosen a career they enjoy, recent information suggests they may be exposed to certain health risks.

Research to Identify Health Problems of Airline Workers - Public Health Panorama, the official journal of the World Health Organization published a new in-depth study concerning health issues that may have been caused by contaminated air they were exposed to in an aircraft. The scientific study confirmed that over 200 aircraft crew experienced a variety of symptoms including dizziness, headaches, difficult respiration, and vision problems. All of these airline workers had been exposed to air supplies possibly contaminated by aircraft fluids including engine oil and gasoline. 

Health Problems Can Be Serious and Long-Lasting - Simply feeling dizzy or having a headache does not seem very serious to most people, but some former airline workers report they have continued to experience tremors, memory loss, and severe headaches. A few airlines have settled claims brought by former employees who continue to suffer from health problems caused by the contaminated air while working as an airline crew member.

Strange Odors During Flight May Indicate Air Contamination - Crew members have reported certain flights during which unusual odors were noticeable and increased to the point where oxygen masks were necessary. The pilots of one flight, in particular, made an emergency landing, but the flight continued once the problem was resolved.

Source of Fresh Air Could be Problematic - The current procedure of cycling fresh air into the airplane involves filtering the air that enters through the jet engines. The air is compressed, bled, cooled and filtered before entering the cabin and cockpit. This bleed air system has raised air contamination concerns for many years, but it is used in all commercial airliners except the huge Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

Airline Workers and Frequent Flyers Most at Risk - The percentage of fume events is low, so most airline passengers are not at risk for breathing contaminated air during their flight. Flight attendants, pilots and people who fly often are those most likely to be exposed to air contaminated by fumes from engine oil or other aircraft fluids.  

There is no doubt that young, adventurous individuals will continue to seek employment as a flight attendant or pilot. Current aircraft crew members usually do not talk about the cabin air contamination problem for fear of losing their job. Airlines are likely to continue settling claims quietly so the problem will continue until they are forced to make the necessary changes.

Aerotoxic Syndrome: A New Occupational Disease? http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/341533/5_OriginalResearch_AerotoxicSyndrom_ENG.pdf?ua=1

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/uos-fcm061917.php

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