A new study published in the World Health organization journal Public Health Panorama suggests that adulterated air supply on flights can cause short-term and long-term health problems. The study conducted by University of Stirling and University of Ulster suggests a link between air contaminated with oil and other aircraft fluids and plethora of health issues in patients.

The study which focused on over 200 cabin crew who had been exposed to a number of substances through aircrafts’ contaminated air. They found a pattern of acute and chronic symptoms, varying from a minor headache to breathing and vision problems. The long term problems can include neurological and cognitive problems, heart arrhythmias, fatigue and long term breathing and gastro-intestinal problems. These are the most observed and consistent toxicity in the air.

Dr Susan Michaelis of the University of Stirling’s occupational and environmental health research group says: “The airlines won’t admit it because of money and liabilities. They have known about the problem since the 1950s. It’s unconscionable that they haven’t dealt with it. They have the technology to eliminate the problem – but manufacturers are refusing to use it. There is a clear cause and effect relationship linking health effects to a design feature that allows the aircraft air supply to become contaminated by engine oils and other fluids in normal flight. This is a clear occupational and public health issue with direct flight-safety consequences.”

Professor Vyvyan Howards, professor of pathology and toxicology at the University of Ulster, said: “The crew is routinely exposed to these fluids at low level in normal flight, occurring on top of this lower-level normal exposure. As passengers, everyone breathes the same air hence they too will be exposed to this adulterated air. This is a design fault. However, this is the most comprehensive study to date and should not be ignored.”

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