Should we be worried about air pollution on planes?

Should we be worried about air pollution on planes?

2023-09-29 18:25:00

This Friday, September 29, The Parisian warns of a phenomenon still little known to the general public: air pollution on board planes. And in particular the existence of “smoke events” – when smoke forms in the cabin during a flight – and their consequences on the health of flight attendants and travelers, of which “aerotoxic syndrome” is one. An observation now supported by scientific expertise, consulted by the daily newspaper.

In 2013, The Economist described aviation syndrome as a mixture of physical and neurological symptoms. Which result from exposure to the breathable air of an airplane cabin contaminated by the components of synthetic engine oils, recalls The Parisian this Friday. Effects reported for years by members of on-board staff and passengers who are victims.

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A judicial expertise carried out in France, and presented in spring 2022 as part of an investigation into endangering others and involuntary injuries opened by investigating judges from the public health center of the Paris judicial court, underlines the existence of this air pollution in planes, and raises the question of possible “consequences on the health of aeronautics professionals”, explains The Parisian in his investigation.

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From a simple cough to neurodegenerative pathologies

If no link could be established between the pathologies developed by the presumed victims of this syndrome and the quality of the air on board, the study carried out by Professor Patrick Babin, biochemist from the University of Bordeaux, a professor specialized in occupational medicine and a professor of biochemistry and toxicology points out the existence of “continuous exposure in varying doses of flight crew and passengers to these fumes depending on flight conditions”.

Regarding symptoms, experts noted that “among the symptoms reported in aerotoxic syndrome, neurological and respiratory symptoms prevail.” Blurred vision, disorientation, headaches, cough, chest tightness, or even neurodegenerative diseases are all effects noted on patients by the study, short for the mildest, and medium, even in the long term for the most important ones, specifies The Parisian. Consequences which vary according to the age, sex, genetic constitution or even the state of health of the people concerned, indicate the authors in their expertise.

A first victory for the victims

For the victims, if this study highlights multiple factors and remains cautious about the cause and effect link between their ills and air pollution in airplane cabins, it “provides scientific legitimacy to our fight on this extremely sensitive subject; we feel that the tide is turning,” rejoices Stéphane Pasqualini, cabin manager and president of AVSA, an association which has 3,000 members.

For Me Beryl Brown, lawyer for one of the pilots, the civil parties and the AVSA: “This document confirms the existence of this aerotoxic syndrome. » The expertise concludes in fact that “ […] ample evidence confirms that exposures occur [mais avec une caractérisation insuffisante] and that flight attendants present certain health conditions more frequently than other populations.” A matter in the hands of justice.

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