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O27-3 Aerotoxic syndrome – fact or fallacy?
  1. Susan Michaelis
  1. Global Cabin Air Quality Executive, Horsham, UK


Introduction Fumes produced by pyrolysed engine oils have been recognised to contaminate aircraft air supplies since 1953.1,2 The design and use of aircraft air supplies taken from the engine, provides a mechanism for lower level exposure in normal flight. The oils containing a range of hazardous substances including organophosphates, have been associated with ill health amongst aircrew and the travelling public, yet a causal connexion is not recognised. A case controlled study was undertaken to look if health effects could be linked to this unique occupational environment.

Methods 275 or 13% of British BAe 146 pilots took part in a case-control study reviewing their workplace environment and health.2

Results 88% of the pilots reported awareness of working in a contaminated air environment, 63% reported symptoms consistent with exposure to oil and other aircraft fluids. 44% reported acute symptoms, with one third reporting longer-lasting adverse effects. 13% displayed a pattern of chronic ill health including a consistent pattern of neurological, neuropsychological, respiratory and other effects, 37–433% above controls.

Discussion Despite acute exposure to such substances causing ill health,3 a wide range of evidence and published literature supports the acute and chronic pattern of dysfunction suggesting a causative relationship exists. The illness termed “Aerotoxic Syndrome” is related to a complex but remarkably consistent set of symptoms resulting from this unique occupational environment. The same pattern is seen in aircrew and passengers globally and can be explained by exposure to a variety of chemicals in the jet engine fluids.


  1. Treon JF. Industrial Hygiene Quarterly1955;16(3):187–195.

  2. Michaelis S. PhD thesis – Health and Flight Safety Implications from Exposure to Contaminated Air in Aircraft, 2010.

  3. COT Position paper on Cabin Air, Committee of Toxicity, UK, 2014.

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