You know the smell. It’s hard to describe, but the second you step on an airplane, a flood of familiarity flies up your nostrils. Airplane smell is equal parts comforting and off-putting. And it’s actually a little bit dangerous. But what is it exactly?
That unique odor inside of an aircraft is quite the cocktail of chemicals, particles, and compounds. As you probably would’ve assumed, it is not fresh air. Almost every single aircraft in the sky uses a blend of stale air that’s been recirculated from the cabin air and outside air that’s been sucked into the engines then pumped into the cabin.
This air is known as “bleed air” and there have been myriad class action lawsuits filed by flight crews that blame toxic chemicals from bleed air for causing various health problems, namely some serious ones that affect the brain. Those problems are broadly referred to as aerotoxic syndrome. You might’ve heard a bit about this topic recently, as a group of flight attendants are suing their airline over toxic air in the cabin.
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