Cabin Crews Complain About "Toxic Air" on Planes

By James O Malley on at

Seventeen current and former cabin crew members from British airlines are suing their employers, claiming they have been poisoned by toxic cabin air.

The BBC reports that in the year between April 2014 and May 2015 there were 251 reports of fumes or smoke in the cabins inside jets belonging to British airlines. Apparently in 104 of these cases illness was later reported, and in 28 oxygen had to be administered.

Scarily, this doesn't include internal faults, such as broken toilets – and doesn't include planes operated by foreign companies such as Ryanair, even though they fly in British skies and from British airports.

Perhaps the most concerning line from the BBC's report is this from a pilot who thinks he was affected by toxic fumes when trying to land at Birmingham Airport, who said:

"We didn't declare a mayday – mostly due to not being able to think of the words needed to say – and ended up auto-landing the plane and simply briefing, 'Whoever is alive or conscious, pull back the thrust levels after touchdown.' It was that serious."

So what's making the air toxic? Campaigners believe it is when air is pumped into the cabin via the engine. If everything inside the engine isn't sealed properly all sorts of dangerous chemicals including tricresyl phosphate (TCP) can be sucked in. Yikes.

The Civil Aviation Authority has denied the claims, phrasing it in perhaps the least reassuring way possible and saying that there is no evidence that chemicals appear at high enough concentrations to cause harm.

If you need me, I think I'll be taking the train instead. [BBC]