It’s being called the “asbestos of the airline industry” and is believed to affect 250,000 pilots, cabin crew and passengers worldwide. It has been known to cause a mysterious illness in many of these people. Aerotoxic syndrome is a condition in which a person gets sick after breathing in toxic fumes from the cabin of an airplane. These fumes are coming from contaminated air from the engine of the aircraft. This is something that has been happening since 1962 when they changed the design of the aircraft and started pumping air from the engine instead of getting it from the atmosphere. They did this to save money. Yes you’re reading this correctly – so the airline put EVERYONE AT RISK, including YOU to save money!!! What is wrong with this picture?
Breathing the contaminated air is causing people to get sick with a mysterious illness that baffles doctors as not many people know about this problem. This especially affects pilots, cabin crew and frequent flyers, although it can affect anyone flying as a ‘fume event’ can occur at any time.
A ‘fume event’ is when the plane fills up with white smoke which is contaminated with oil from the jet engines and is an indication that the ‘wet seals’ or membranes have gone bad.
On today’s show I talk to John Hoyte who is a retired pilot who fell sick with a mysterious illness in 1990, while flying a BAe 146 airliner which then led to his premature retirement on medical grounds. In 2006, he became aware of aerotoxic syndrome and after much research on the subject he founded the Aerotoxic Association in 2007.
John is trying to bring awareness to the public about this problem and working to bring solutions to the industry. He says that many people are coming up with solutions but there needs to be an outcry from the public to speed these solutions up in being implemented. They are making progress but much more needs to be done.
John mentions a newer model plane called the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that uses air from the atmosphere in the cabin which makes the air very safe to breathe.
He also says if you fly and especially if you are a frequent flyer it is wise to wear or at least have a charcoal mask on hand to protect yourself from the toxic fumes that you will be breathing on your flight. It is especially important if you fly a lot.
If you think you may have been overexposed to the toxic air from an airplane or if you have experienced a ‘fume event’ on a plane and get sick there are tests that your doctor can order to determine if that is causing your illness. You can read about these tests and get much more information on this topic from John’s website. He also has a free book that talks about this problem that you can download from his site.