Aircraft air quality
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ITF Contaminated Air Education - Cabin Crew Checklist: a look at the problem of aircraft air contamination
Contaminated air inside aircraft is a real concern for us all, as aviation workers and trade unionists.
The ITF is determined to do what it can to address this problem, and as part of that effort we have launched these new web pages at www.cabinairquality.org where you can see a new film on the subject, find advice, and download materials to help you find out more and publicise the problem.
What’s the problem?
The air supplied by the ventilation system of modern passenger aircraft is typically ‘bled’ off the engines. This means that it can potentially be contaminated by engine oils, hydraulic fluid, de-icer, ozone and exhaust fumes.
For years passengers and aviation workers alike have been warning about incidents when the air inside aircraft was noticeably tainted, or even so polluted that it could barely be breathed. This has raised fears about the effects on safety-critical staff during flights, and also on their long term health.
How can it be detected?
Usually by smell, though in some cases fumes are visible. Sometimes it is only noticed when people begin to feel sick.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- Metallic taste
- Irritation to the eyes, nose or throat
- Muscle pain
What can cabin crew do?
- If you notice an unusual smell or if cabin crew or passengers have symptoms then report the incident to the pilot in command.
- Document and file a safety report.
- If you have symptoms, file a sick claim. Keep a copy of all paperwork including flight number, registration numbers and date and time of the incident. Send a copy to your union.
- Get medical attention. Keep a symptom diary. Take photos of any visible symptoms. Keep a record with your doctor.
- Contact your union health and safety representative for information and support. Get union support you if you are not well enough to return to work. Do not let yourself be bullied into taking a trip if you are not well.
Where can I find out more?
Have a look here for the latest information and guides for cabin crew and aviation trade unions.
What more can I do/what can unions do?
Work with you colleagues and union to get this issue raised with the workforce and your employer, then share the information.
We’d like to learn about your own experiences of the problem and how you as a union have tackled it, or believe that it should be tackled. We’d particularly like to know if you are planning to use what you’ve found on these pages, so that we can share those lessons among all the unions that are addressing this issue. Please let us know via email@example.com.