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.
Treon JF. Industrial Hygiene Quarterly1955;16(3):187–195.
Michaelis S. PhD thesis – Health and Flight Safety Implications from Exposure to Contaminated Air in Aircraft, 2010.
COT Position paper on Cabin Air, Committee of Toxicity, UK, 2014.
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