Dr Jill R Meara
Public Health England Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards
133 – 155 Waterloo Road
Ref: BA286 – Airbus A380 diversion to Vancouver – G-XLEB
Friday 6th January 2017
Dear Dr. Meara
Thank you for your email of 15 November 2016.
I wanted to wait for a few weeks before responding to see how the BA 286 crew recovered from their in flight exposure to unknown ’toxic chemicals’ in October 2016. I also wanted to wait until many passengers and crewed had been de-briefed by an expert.
You may recall that CDC kindly offered to analyse the blood of the crew and passengers from the BA286 flight to confirm exposure to a phosphate compound. The protocols to do this have been provided to CDC by the University of Washington. All CDC need to progress matters is to receive a request from an appropriate agency to do so, but bizarely no agency wishes to make such a request.
I understand several of the BA286 crew are still off work nearly 10 weeks after the event. This would indicate potentially a fairly significant chemical exposure onboard. As no aircraft has any form of detection system the airline cannot rule this out.
I cannot understand why PHE in its remit to protect public health would not make such a basic request. It has no cost to the tax payer. PHE states that PHE exists “protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.”
British Airways have informed both passengers and crew from the BA286 flight that they do not know what caused the reported ‘toxic fumes’ – this blood test would be a good start to better understanding events onboard. Later this year, the definitive test to confirm exposure to the specific aryl phosphates used in synthetic jet engine oils may be ready and exposure can then be hopefully confirmed more precisely.
Neither the British AAIB or TSB Canada are investigating this event, leaving it to British Airways and Airbus to do so. Hardly in the public interest.
Since my last email, the crew and many passengers have now been de-briefed by a qualified air accident investigator, Dr Susan Michaelis. Dr Michaelis also holds a PhD in Safety Sciences – specifically in contaminated air on aircraft, as well as being trained in COSHH etc… It is her professional opinion that the crew and passengers onboard BA286 were most likely exposed to pyrolised jet engine oil fumes contaminating the breathing air supply in flight.
Synthetic jet engine oils contain neurotoxic and carcinogenic compounds such as aryl phosphates listed by REACH as being a risk to the unborn and to infertility.
I am sure you would agree no passenger or crew member should be exposed to toxic chemicals onboard aircraft, especially the unborn. In a letter to Tobias Ellwood MP dated 24th May 2013 (attached), Exxon Mobil (one of the principle manufacturers of synthetic jet engine oils) stated they were unaware of any published inhalation toxicity data relating to jet engine oils – this means neither COT, the DfT, any airline, the CAA or Airbus can state that any such exposure is safe. Common sense tells us it will not be.
It is imperative that the travelling public know if they are being exposed to toxic chemicals onboard British registered aircraft.
Will PHE please now request CDC to carry out the blood analysis of the passengers and crew onboard BA286?
As British Airways has not told the passengers what they were exposed to, will PHE please carry out a follow up check with the 432 people onboard the aircraft to see how many other people are still suffering ill health effects?
I also attach a GCAQE educational brochure on the issue which may be of interest to you and your team.
Captain Tristan Loraine
11 January 2017
Dear Mr Loraine,
Thank you for your follow-up enquiry.
at more information in an incident is valuable but any medical test requires a clear understanding of how the results can be interpreted before the tests are done. For some of the compounds likely to be involved in cabin air incidents correlation between exposures and health outcomes can be challenging making it difficult if not impossible to interpret the results with any degree of confidence. This would be an unsatisfactory outcome for passengers and crew.
In particular the decorated proteins analysis is a new research method for assessing exposure and to some extent time of exposure.
I have shared it with our topic experts. They do not believe that the new information alters our reasons for not recommending screening of passengers for aryl phosphates and decorated proteins. I have pasted the relevant paragraph from my previous response below.
In terms of your question of PHE supporting a request to CDC and UW to screen for aryl phosphates and decorated proteins. PHE would generally consider thFor this incident the time of exposure would appear unnecessary as it is clear when the incident took place from the cockpit recordings and the log. Correlating decorated proteins with health outcomes would be virtually impossible on current knowledge. For this reason PHE would advise that analysis of decorated proteins would be unlikely to help the assessment of this incident.
I am sorry that we cannot be more helpful at this time.
Dr Jill R Meara FFPH
Acting Director, Public Health England Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards
PHE – Protecting and improving the nation’s health