Husten, Schwindel, Herzrasen: Immer mehr Flugbegleiter, Piloten und Passagiere leiden unter „Fume Events“
Flight attendant Maria Greiner (name changed) is desperate. She has been suffering from dizziness, cough, heart racing, breathing problems, and visual disturbances since an operation in February 2016. Only the employer, the professional association, and the doctors do not want to believe it. “It is very difficult for me to lead the paper war with partly unbearable pain,” she says. More and more flight attendants, pilots and passengers report such symptoms.
The contaminated cabin air is responsible for this. In nearly all airplanes, the air in the engines is tapped off. In so-called “fume events”, remnants of burned oil, kerosene or de-icing fluids enter the aircraft interior – often unnoticed. According to the Federal Office for Air Traffic Accident Investigations there were 663 events with “clear signs” between 2006 and 2013 of a health impact on aircraft occupations and “health impairment” of aircraft passengers. The latter suffer from the same symptoms, but usually do not know why.
Over the past eight years, the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt reported more than 800 incidents. At the Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr (BG), the accident insurance carrier for aircraft personnel, more than 450 people reported in 2015 to get compensation for Fume events; In 2013 it was only 300. According to BG, such incidents are compensated “regularly” as work accidents. However, it is just as a “work disaster” and not as “occupational disease”. This does not mean a pension for permanently incapacitated flight attendants like Greiner.
Another problem: the only specialist center at the University Medical Center Göttingen, which is specialized in Fume Events, does not offer any consultation hours. In a number of cases “symptoms of contaminated cabin air” could be detected “without a doubt”. However, “there were some attempts by the industry to present their results as dubious,” says Christiane Donath of the UFO union. Since then, 35,000 people have signed a petition from Kerstin Konrad to revive the office hours. “Unfortunately I know from my own experience how badly it can be after a flight,” she says. After all, soon new patients will be accepted again, assured a non-speaker. Diseases caused by contaminated cabin air could be proven scientifically “dubious” Bavaria’s state government sees no action at the moment on the topic of Fume Events. “If the federal level is concerned, this is not a case for the country level,” states the Bavarian Ministry of Health. The problem: The Confederation has been dealing with it for ten years. More than a voluntary self-obligation for companies to report such events to the authorities has not yet come to light. The EU Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency are responsible for this, according to the Federal Ministry of Transport.
The SPD parliamentary parliamentary group in Bavaria is demanding that the investigations be pushed forward vigorously. “The physical complaints and health restrictions of flight personnel show that there is a need for action,” stresses the consumer protection policy spokesman Florian von Brunn. In the coming weeks, the Greens want to bring an application package for the disease through environmental toxins into the state parliament. Lufthansa is now able to retrofit the dispensing systems in the A320 and A321 engines with carbon filters. In the case of positive measurement results, this is to be extended to the A350 fleet, according to a company secretary. Employees fear, however, that only the unpleasant smell is minimized, but the toxins continue to reach the plane interior. Markus Tressel, the Green Bundestag deputy, has been working hard for years in the most difficult solution: using nerve-free oils. (David Lohmann)