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UFO - Unabhängige Flugbegleiter Organisation
UFO - Unabhängige Flugbegleiter Organisation

Cabin Air -

really harmless?


Anlässlich der Veröffentlichung der spektakulären Fume-Event-Guidelines der ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) einerseits und der unveränderten Relativierung des Problems Kabinenluft durch die Industrie andererseits, hat Daniel Flohr, Sprecher der Industriegewerkschaft Luftverkehr (IGL), ein kurzes Interview geführt mit:

Judith Anderson/AFA-CWA (Association of Flight Attendants, USA)
Sylvia Gassner/UFO (Sprecherin der AG Gesundheit und Mitglied DIN)
Christiane Donath/EurECCA (European Cabin Crew Association)

Das Interview wurde der Einfachheit halber in Englisch geführt. Wir möchten das Interview im Originalton an Euch weitergeben.

Cabin Air - really harmless?

by Daniel Flohr, Speaker of the German Union of Aviation Industry (Industriegewerkschaft Luftverkehr), 25th February 2016

Thanks to skype, I was able to talk to three committed trade union delegates representing many crewmembers worldwide regarding the topic of Cabin Air.


"Hello everybody, thanks for joining the interview. Let’s start right away. Sylvia, we heard last week in the German media about a published study of the university of Göttingen. Could you tell us a little more about that?“


“Well, no final report has been published yet – we expect that in March. Still, the interim findings suggest a real breakthrough! The scientists measured high levels of breathing chemical fumes on aircraft, and the availability of these urine and blood tests should mean that crews will be able to prove it. The types of chemicals that these tests measure aren’t specific to oil fumes – they could also come from exhaust or fuel fumes, for example. But they are consistent with breathing oil fumes, which has been reported by so many flight attendants and pilots, and can cause very serious health problems. It is really hard to prove that you breathed oil fumes during a flight because there is no specific oil blood test, and airlines don’t share the aircraft records. Also, when crews get sick, their airlines or insurers typically try to either downplay or outright deny any connection to the aircraft. As recently as two years ago, the industry was still largely denying that it was even possible to breathe toxic air supply system-sourced fumes onboard, which was peculiar! Then air measurements were published which confirmed the presence of many toxic substances in the cabin air. And now, these biological tests seem to identify high levels of various chemical compounds that – while not specific to oil –are present in oil. This is another important step in our fight for recognition of this exposure hazard on what are otherwise considered “normal” flights.“


„These results concern acute cases, right? What about crewmembers, who were affected years ago?“


„The next step is to correlate the biological testing with the presence of symptoms. Ultimately, we need an official acknowledgement of this as an occupational disease. The industry needs to be motivated to better prevent the air supply system being contaminated with oil fumes. All we are asking for is clean air to breathe.


„Over the years, industry has dreamed up many bizarre explanations for why crews get sick. Do you think these data will finally end the denial from the industry that the ventilation air on regular flights can be contaminated with oil-based toxins? “


„It is a necessary step in the right direction. Best practice would be to stop all fume events by filtering the ventilation air, installing sensors to provide early warning, and making sure crews get the necessary training and education to recognize and respond to fumes. Actually, bleed-free is the best solution of all.“


“What role does blood tests play?“


„If I breathe oil fumes on my flight today and get sick, I have no way to prove it. In this case, it is my word against the airline, and the airlines usually win because they don’t share the records, they deny proper medical attention, and they can outspend me. Crews need access to a simple blood test to prove if they’ve breathed oil fumes onboard. Crew unions have contributed to this blood test development research which has been very helpful, but it isn’t enough. So, crews and passengers around the globe are sending very small contributions via online “crowd- funding” to support Prof. Clement Furlong and his team at the University of Washington in Seattle to get the job done. A non-profit organization run by cabin crew called Clean Up Cabin Air posted a short video online to raise awareness about this issue and invite as many people as possible to each make a small contribution.“


„Yes, but can it still be watched?“


"Absolutely, on the page of www.aerotoxic.org - Home Page - Aerotoxic Association


Information and news on aerotoxic syndrome, caused by breathing cabin air on aircraft that is contaminated by engine oil or hydraulic fluid.

or: www.generosity.com/medical-fundraising/air-crew-passenger-health-research-toxic-oil


"What do think could be done by somebody who is not so well versed in the topic but wants to help?"


„Well, we wish independent researchers would get more financial support. But most research related to airline crews breathing oil fumes is funded, either by industry (like ExxonMobil) or by their well-paid consultants. Hardly independent! One good solution is donations from crowdfunding projects. This is definitely a way that lots of people could contribute a small part to this big problem.“


„And what do unions do?"


„Well, trade unions are not only responsible for pay negotiations, but also for occupational health. Trade unions are a powerful voice for workers in Germany. Their representatives continue their work by reading studies, talking to experts, listening to lectures, attending meetings/conferences, and exchanging information about their experiences.“


„Yes, indeed, we dive into technical engineering, we must learn some legal terms, we delve into toxicology and medicine, not to mention chemistry. On a lighter note I must admit, that chemistry wasn’t my favourite topic at school. Not fair that I have to revisit it now! But it is far from boring, rather nail biting, because the chemicals in oil fumes affect people’s health in such profound ways.“


„What do you hope to achieve?“


„In the short term, we want all airlines to use a standardized and integrated fume-reporting system in Germany, and we want to establish a medical competence center that can help acute victims as well as flight crew with ongoing bad health. We need more parliamentary enquiries in order to maintain pressure for political change to address the problem. Finally, we need the top people in industry and government to realize how important and fundamental the problem is. And we need to stand together and get a foot in the door at national committees and international conferences, making our voices heard with the industry."


"Which role do the new ICAO guidelines play? And how long did it take to accomplish this task?"


"The ICAO Circular is a real milestone! ICAO clearly recognizes that flight safety can be compromised when crews breathe certain types of fumes that can contaminate the ventilation air on aircraft. It provides clear guidance for training and educating cabin crew, pilots, maintenance workers - and even some management - about how to recognize and respond to those types of fumes. It also includes a standardized fume reporting form, which any and all airlines can use. There is still a lot of work to do, but there was real consensus on the group that developed this document - across labour and industry - which was encouraging. And with so many trade unions working together on this topic at an international level, I am confident that we can achieve our goal of clean air onboard.”


“Thank you all for the interview.”

Die ICAO-Guidelines können über den nachfolgenden Link für 28 USD bestellt werden:

Teile diesen Artikel

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