Pilots and staff launch multiple toxic air claims against British airlines

Meanwhile, toxic air is cited as potential factor in two unexplained British Airways staff deaths

British airlines are facing 17 individual legal claims of poisoning by toxic air circulating in aircraft cabins.

The various cases include one claim by a pilot who said he was seriously affected by toxic air during landing at Birmingham airport in 2014.

The 17 lawsuits against various UK airlines are being funded by the Unite union, which represents 20,000 airline workers in the UK.

Between April 2014 and May 2015, there were 251 recorded incidents of smoke or fumes entering the cabin of large passenger planes, according to information found by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire radio programme.

An illness was reported in 104 of the 251 cases.

About half the air in the cabins of commercial airliners is drawn directly through the engines. According to health campaigners, when airtight seals are broken, fumes from the engine can contaminate the air supply.

The BBC reports the testimony of the pilot affected by fumes at Birmingham.

“Almost instantly myself and the captain became very unwell and decided it was bad enough to place our oxygen masks on,” he said.

“We didn’t declare a mayday - mostly due to not being able to think of the words needed to say - and ended up auto-landing the plane and simply briefing, ‘Whoever is alive or conscious, pull back the thrust levels after touchdown.’ It was that serious.”

British Airways

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said that air contamination is rare, and there is no evidence of long term health consequences.

However, two ongoing legal battles dispute this.

Firstly, in the case of the death of 43-year-old British Aiways pilot Richard Westgate in 2012, the coroner wrote to British Airways saying that an autopsy “disclosed symptoms consistent with exposure to organophosphate compounds in aircraft cabin air”.

And secondly, an inquest is due to open into the unexplained death of British Airways flight attendant, Matthew Bass, aged 34, who died suddenly in 2014, after suffering health problems. According to the BBC, a post mortem found high levels of toxins in his body consistent with the organophosphate compounds in question.

British Airways said: “We would not operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew.

“There has been substantial research into questions around cabin air quality over the last few years. In summary, the research has found no evidence that exposure to potential chemicals in the cabin causes long-term ill health.”

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