Airplane cabin air found contaminated with toxic chemicals that really can damage your health
You probably know at least one person who has a fear of flying. Whether it comes out of concerns about terrorism or worries over crashing, these people can usually be placated to some extent by looking at statistics showing how unlikely these events are to occur on their flight. However, there is one danger that people place themselves in every time they take to the skies, and it comes from the air in the cabin on commercial flights.
In a study involving more than 200 airplane crew members, led by the University of Stirling, a clear pattern of chronic, acute symptoms emerged that ranged from dizziness and headaches to vision problems and breathing difficulties. The researchers found a “clear cause-and-effect relationship” between the health problems and a poor aircraft design feature that enables the air supply to be contaminated by fluids like engine oils during the flight.
The problem arises in the way that air is drawn from plane engines before being mixed with the existing cabin air and then recirculated. The air drawn from the engine often contains toxic fumes developed by the friction between the engine’s moving parts and the oils used to lubricate them. Seals meant to minimize the problem often wear down and fail to do their job. The only current aircraft that does not use this method of supplying cabin air is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which instead relies on electric compressors to take air from the atmosphere.
The problematic chemicals in the air include organophosphates, which wreak havoc on nerve cell coatings and create diffuse symptoms in the nervous system.