For the first time, poisoning by harmful aircraft cabin air in Germany was recognized as a work disaster. It is the second case in the world where the disease of a crew member in connection with contaminated cabin air has been recognized as an occupational accident. As a result, on the Lufthansaflug from 2013 during the landing, a so-called fume event took place, in which contaminated air flows from the engines into the cabin interior. A flight attendant then showed symptoms of poisoning and was ill-treated for several months.
Only now, after the stewardess had already filed for action at the Sozialgericht Hamburg in 2014, the Berufsgenossenschaft (BG) Verkehrs Hamburg recognized the incident as a work accident. The decision is based on expert opinions from experts who could relate the symptoms to the incident. The BFU, the Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU), did not classify the incident as a “serious disorder” or “accident,” and stated that the judgment was only available upon request from the media. Politicians criticize this lack of communication between the BG and the BFU, “There seems to be no real interest. This null communication ensures that cases fall under the table and airlines do not comply with their statutory reporting requirements.
Fume Events: When airplane air makes you sick
In a so-called “fume event” it happens that the air which is directed into the interior of the aircraft is mixed with harmful gases. This is because the cabin air comes from the engines, where it is possible to collect residues of kerosene or oil. These oils, in turn, release high-temperature substances which are harmful to the health, which are noticeable by an acrid odor. Alternative methods of air injection or filters could eliminate the risk. However, for reasons of cost, there are so far hardly any aircraft models in which the alternative techniques for air purification are used.
The Verdi trade union and the cockpit pilots’ association criticize the fact that the topic of Fume Events is not receiving enough attention. The trade unions continue to criticize the fact that standardized biomonitoring procedures are rejected by the employers’ liability insurance association (BG), but a “restrictive recognition practice” is pursued. An inquiry in the Bundestag showed that the BG had about 1000 cases in which flight attendants or pilots stated that they had been poisoned by contaminated cabin air. These cases were all submitted between January 2014 and February 2016.
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