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Let me tell you a story – a real-life event. Think of a close, male family member. He works as cabin crew. He’s fit and healthy, a gym bunny, and you can’t even remember the last time he had a cold. He begins to feel unwell. He visits various doctors, hospitals, and has MRI scans. All tests are inconclusive. Nobody can understand how someone can become so ill so quickly, yet apparently have nothing wrong with them. He begins to lose weight, develop digestive problems, and feel fatigued. Questions are raised over whether your relative could be suffering from crohn’s disease. He has, in fact, been poisoned by organophosphates in cabin air.
This is Aerotoxic Syndrome.
He returns from a flight to Accra in late January 2014, a few months after initially falling ill. He goes for another – inconclusive – MRI scan, and then enjoys an evening with some close colleagues. They clear away while he goes for a rest. Matt Bass sadly passed away on 30th January, 2014. His friends found him that evening, lying on a sofa, unresponsive. They performed CPR and an ambulance was called, but he couldn’t be saved.
That could have been your relative. Earning a living and being poisoned at work, the employer still in denial. This is what Matt endured, and his death could have been prevented had the air in cabins been filtered. Not long after his passing, a solicitor contacted a friend of Matt’s’. They suggested Matt had passed due to long-term, chronic exposure, and after the post mortem was inconclusive, a specialist from Holland examined his body. The results were clear – chronic exposure to organophosphates, present in cabin air. The air Matt, and many others breathe, every time they go to work. The air we breathe.
Airlines know this, the government knows this, the manufactures know this, but still it remains a subject so few of us know anything about. You may be wondering; What is chronic exposure? What are organophosphates?
What is Aerotoxic Syndrome? Asbestos use was officially banned in the UK in 1999. It was known decades before that exposure was costing lives, but it was hidden from us. Companies were liable, and they couldn’t risk their reputations, or their bank balances. So, asbestos continued to be used.
Now Aerotoxic Syndrome is being hidden in the same way. Recently, discussions began in parliament about the issue, but still airlines deny it exists. You’ll soon know that Aerotoxic Syndrome is real, and it needs to be addressed.
Do you know where the air you breathe comes from when you fly? Have you ever got off a flight and felt groggy and lethargic, but blamed it on the long journey? Have you ever stopped to think, while gazing out the window at the sun over the clouds, what’s in the air filling your delicate lungs? Shockingly, it is filtered through the aircraft engines, containing poisonous organophosphates. These substances are found in nerve gases. They affect our bodies in similar ways to sarin, a nerve gas used in chemical warfare. Would you consider breathing this safe? By being exposed to these dangerous chemicals, we are at risk of developing aerotoxic syndrome. When air is filtered through engines, these chemicals can enter the air we breathe. This is bleed air, and it could be affecting unsuspecting passengers.
So, why aren’t there any filters? The Boeing 787 has clean air from electrical compressors, unlike all other aircraft. It’s advertising campaign was ‘bleed free air’. If there is no bleed of organophosphates in cabin air as the airlines say, why would there be any need to promote their new aircraft as having clean, filtered air? Chronic exposure is the constant exposure to bleed air, having long-term effects on regular fliers, leading to aerotoxic syndrome.
Constant exposure to organophosphates means damage to your body, leaving you with memory loss, respiratory problems, permanent loss of feeling at nerve endings, to name but a few. Exposure will not affect all of us, but nobody should be put at risk. If this continues, there may be more fatalities.
A notable fume event made the news recently. Fume events are described as visible clouds of smoke entering the cabin. They can affect passengers who rarely fly, if you are caught up in one. Another type of fume event is non-visible. Instead of seeing smoke in the cabin caused by a leak of oil into the air systems, you can only smell the fumes commonly described as ‘old wet socks’.
With no filters or detectors on board, we are all at risk. 96% of fume events go unreported because crew are afraid to report them. Fume events are happening daily, and passengers assume they must be safe. We trust the airlines, but should we? This may be a lot to take in.
To summarise, unless flying on a Boeing 787, bear in mind as you slide into slumber with dreams of your holiday, that the air around you is filtered through the aeroplane’s engines. In the words of an ex-captain suffering from Aerotoxic Syndrome, ‘There are no filters – the only filters are your lungs’.