Toxic fumes in aircraft are a safety hazard

British aviation authorities confirm that hazardous situations arise as a result of toxic fumes in airline passenger cabins and flight decks.

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( is looking into the problem of toxic organophosphates in turbine and hydraulic oils from aero engines leaking into the cabin air supply. According to press spokesman Jonathan Nicholson of the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), there is every reason to take the problems connected with polluted cabin air in aircraft seriously.

“Aircraft safety is always our highest priority. We have seen several cases of airborne personnel being partially incapacitated by toxic fumes during flights, and take this very seriously,” says Nicholson to

CAA report

In 2002 the CAA commenced a research programme into air quality aboard airliners, after receiving reports of incidents in which personnel became ill and to some extent incapable of performing their duties during flights. Reports indicated that the hazardous incidents were caused by oil vapour leaking into the air supply to the cabin and flight deck. The CAA’s investigations showed that there was no reason to believe that the incidents had any other cause.

According to the CAA report “Cabin Air Quality”:

“In the event of oil leakage there is the opportunity, therefore, for the pyrolysis products of engine lubricant/fuel to enter the cabin air supply and exert toxic effects on both passengers and crew.”

“It is common knowledge that such toxic fumes can have a short-term effect on both crew and passengers,” says Jonathan Nicholson.

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In several articles, has referred to pilots and cabin crew who believe that they have incurred permanent neurological damage as a result of long-term exposure to toxic organophosphates during flights. The special interest organisation AOPIS has registered about 1500 sufferers.

The CAA acknowledges that a number of flight personnel have health problems of a diffuse nature, but has not yet discovered any causal connection between these problems and long-term exposure to toxic fumes in cabin air.

“We have therefore recommended that studies be initiated with the objective of determining whether such long-term effects exist,” says Nicholson to British authorities have ordered an investigation of flight crew’s working conditions, as reported in last week.

A report which is to be presented by an officially appointed working party at a conference in London later this summer is therefore awaited with considerable anticipation.

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