Lawmakers and labor leaders are demanding action after a growing number of toxic air events in aircraft cabins have sickened passengers and crew members.
Fume events such as the incident last month that caused a JetBlue flight to make an emergency landing at Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) after passengers and crew members became ill used to seem like a rare and mysterious occurrence. Now, labor leaders and regulators say that toxic air events and the accompanying Aerotoxic Syndrome have become all too commonplace.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) partially attributes the uptick in reported toxic air events to aircraft which use engine bleed air to supply the cabin with air. The AFA has called on the airline industry to either find a way to solve the problem or end the the use of engine bleed air to supply aircraft cabins.
“Most Americans go to work with the expectation of breathing clean air, but until we achieve better standards for cabin air quality, Flight Attendants don’t have this guarantee,” AFA International President Sara Nelson noted.
If Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) have their way, airlines will be required by law to address the issue. The lawmakers have proposed legislation that would require the FAA to “improve education to passengers and crew members regarding the possibility of contaminated air, improve reporting of incidents, and begin developing technology to prevent incidents of contaminated air.” The so-called Cabin Air Safety Act was proposed as an amendment to the pending FAA reauthorization Act.
“This legislation protects airplane passengers and crew aboard planes from the hidden menace of toxic fumes,” Senator Blumenthal explained. “The bill will further prevent horrific toxic fume events by ensuring pilots and flight attendants have the proper training and resources to respond to dangerous air quality, and by directing the FAA to investigate reports of toxic fume events.”
Toxic air events and the potentially devastating effects of Aerotoxic Syndrome have sparked a slew of lawsuits from airline workers around the globe. In June 2015, a group of Alaska Air flight attendants took Boeing to federal court over the use of engine bleed air supply, which they claimed was responsible for a litany of health issues. Later that year, crew members in the UK followed the lead of their U.S. counterparts and initiated similar legal action against several British carriers. In April of this year, the twin of a deceased, former British Airways pilot testified before a coroner’s inquest about his brother’s long-held belief that toxic cockpit air was responsible for the health problems that eventually led to his death.