Frequently Asked Questions
The questions below will give you further insight into fumes on board and Aerotoxic Syndrome and the precautions you can take.
What is the contaminated air problem?
The air on the aircraft is provided unfiltered from the compression section of the engines in a process known as ‘bleed air’. This bleed air gets contaminated with heated engine oil fumes that contain hazardous chemicals, which crews and passengers breathe in and may also absorb it through the skin (dermal exposure).
Aren’t the concentrations of the oil-based chemicals too low to cause harm?
Exposures are to a complex mixture of chemicals, which can have a synergistic effect. No inhalation toxicity testing has ever been published. Also, most chemicals do not have a recognised safe exposure level.
What are VOC's?
Volatile Organic Compound. VOC’s are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.
Are too few people affected for this to be a health concern?
Exposure to contaminated air will most likely impact individuals in different ways in both the short and long term, based on a number of variable factors: levels and types of chemicals present during an event; previous exposure history to contaminated air, genetic make-up, age, medical condition and potentially any medication you may be taking.
How can contaminated air events possibly compromise flight safety?
Regulations state that crews are not allowed to fly if they are fatigued or have consumed alcohol or taken certain medications in a pre-determined time period before they fly. This is to ensure crews are alert and able to deal with any complex emergencies they may face. Inhaling contaminated air will and has impacted crews’ cognitive ability to fly – this is a flight safety issue.
I am a passenger – can I be affected by such fumes and get Aerotoxic Syndrome?
Yes, we have cases and many case studies and testimonies from passengers affected by just one acute fume event.
What other medical issue can Aerotoxic Syndrome be compared to?
Symptoms of Aerotoxic Syndrome can mimic i.e. Parkinson’s or MS, chemical sensitivity, chronic bad flu, severe allergies, CFS, cardiac and lung problems. View symptoms here.
Aren’t all the chemicals below exposure standards?
There are no standards for the mixture of chemicals you are exposed to. Furthermore exposure standards do not apply at altitude, they only apply to single chemicals. They do not apply to complex chemical mixtures and do not apply to the travelling public – especially not to the unborn, children and the elderly.
Are fume events rare?
Aircraft are not equipped with detection systems to warn when the air is contaminated. Many chemicals are odourless and under reporting is widespread throughout the industry. Consequently, it cannot be stated that these events are rare. It can only be stated that the exact frequency of events remains unknown. Report an event!
Isn’t it true that there is no evidence of exposure?
Oils used in engines leak into the air supply by design. Their chemical signature has been repeatedly found in aircraft cabins and cockpits. Extensive evidence confirms that exposures are occurring and health and flight safety is being compromised. A hair analysis test is available which can detect several signature compounds of jet oils and HBM (human bio monitoring) can detect other substances present only in aircraft cabin air. Over 127 substances are known to date, many of which are neurotoxic, cancerogenic or endocrine disrupting..
Why have most doctors never heard of Aerotoxic Syndrome?
Because Aerotoxic Syndrome is not officially registered and classified as such by the World Health Organisation, or the regulators. One should point doctors toward CO/ VOC poisoning. View a new study published by WHO and along list of scientific papers stating that the problem exists.
What are airlines doing about Aerotoxic Syndrome?
Keeping silent and pointing at industry led research to prove there is only a small problem.
Are the oxygen masks available for smoke / fumes protection for passengers?
No. The drop-down oxygen masks are only for cabin decompression, so pilots are not allowed to drop the oxygen masks for smoke / fumes in the cabin. Get a high quality mask HERE and enter code FLYERSFRIEND to receive 10% off.
How can I protect myself on a flight from fumes?
Many people have used foldable half face respirator masks with ‘activated carbon’ successfully to avoid the worst of the fumes. For more information about masks click here
What is "activated carbon"?
Activated carbon and charcoal filters excel at adsorbing odors and gases and neutralizing smoke, chemicals, and fumes. "Adsorb" is not a typo; "adsorption" occurs when materials attach through chemical attraction. Activated carbon has been treated with oxygen, opening up millions of pores in the carbon. The bigger the carbon filter, the more chemicals it will be able to adsorb and the longer it will keep on working. When it's full it can't absorb any more, and should be replaced.
I have heard that only a few jet aircraft are susceptible to fume events – is this true?
No. All jet aircraft that use bleed air are affected – including turbo propellers – however some aircraft models appear to be worse than others. To date the B787 has been free from bleed-air fumes, but recently air contamination has been detected.
Are there solutions to stop fume events?
Yes, bleed air filtration – but it would cost money – most passengers say they would be content to pay extra for clean air. Some airlines are looking at installing improved filters - the units have to be installed downstream of the engines or APUs (auxiliary power units) in order to address the problem as close to the source as possible. (Note: update from 2018)
When will the issue be fixed?
As soon as passengers complain to the airlines and demand clean breathing air. Sign our petition demanding that Toxic Air Detectors and effective filters be fitted in all passenger jets.
How can passengers complain?
By writing to the airline and aviation regulators and by encouraging other passengers to do the same.
Does the aviation industry know about the issue?
Yes. Since the 1940's - go HERE to see the research, papers and warnings given even by the airline industry's own highly qualified employees.
Where can an affected person get tips how to recover?
Go to this BLOG
These FAQs incorporate FAQs from the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) 2014 brochure.