Unite Legal Services calls for immediate public inquiry into toxic cabin air

A second American Airlines flight was forced to change direction and ground last week (Friday 29 January 2016) after several members of cabin crew and passengers became ill mid-flight.

Flight 904 left Rio de Janiero for Miami but, after four people complained of light-headedness and some passed out, the pilots decided to divert to Brasilia following a ‘medical emergency’.

This follows the news of another American Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles on Thursday 28 January 2016 aborting its flight and returning to Heathrow due to crew being affected by a mystery airborne illness.

Both incidents have added further weight to Unite Legal Services’ call for a public inquiry into the potential damage caused to cabin crew and passengers by toxic cabin air.

Unite Legal Services considers that the grounding of both flights is further evidence that potential leaks from aircraft engines are finding their way into the cabins, causing the crew and passengers to feel sick, which may also be impairing the crew’s health.

Unite Legal Services is pursuing 60 cases of individuals who have symptoms consistent with the exposure to toxic cabin air (sometimes known as aerotoxic syndrome), and is also representing a case on behalf of a deceased cabin crew member.

Howard Beckett, director of Unite Legal Services, said: “The case for a full-scale public inquiry into toxic cabin air builds daily. This is the second such incident in recent days - the aviation industry simply cannot continue to ignore the clamour for action.

“But we also want manufacturers to take action now. The technology behind the circulation of air within aircraft has not moved on much at all since the 1950s, meaning that ‘fume events’ are happening with regularity. Repeated exposure to these ‘events’ is what we believe leads to aerotoxic syndrome – so we say to the industry, sort this out because people are being put at risk.

“It is worth noting that organic phosphates are found in engine oils; these are live threatening poisons that are used in chemical warfare. That is why it is beholden on all parties not to brush this off. Let’s have the public inquiry where this issue can be considered fully and all necessary actions taken thereafter.

“Unite is determined to get action to address this public safety menace. We will not have passengers and our members put at risk, so we will not rest until the industry acts to eliminate the risk of aerotoxic syndrome, and that those who have had their lives, or their loved ones lives blighted by this syndrome, get the justice they deserve.”

For more information on toxic cabin air, visit our dedicated toxic cabin air page.