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Scientists are again calling for extensive epidemiological research into the link between sick crew members and air quality on board aircraft. According to neurologist Gerard Hageman, long-term exposure to toxins in the cockpit and cabin is very likely to cause serious health damage. However, a causal relationship has not been established. Minister Harpers for Infrastructure and Water Management says he supports follow-up research.
In a chapter recently published in the scientific journal Advances in neurotoxicology Four authors, including Hageman, set out the scientific insights into the so-called aerobic toxicity syndrome in a row. For many years, researchers from around the world have attempted to explain why a small minority of aircrews develop serious neurological and cognitive complaints. There are serious indications that this has something to do with poor air quality on board aircraft, but no conclusive evidence. It is therefore not (yet) a recognized occupational disease.
Many aircraft engines suffer from oil leaks. As a result, low concentrations of toxic substances end up in the cockpit and cabin. There is also a so-called smoke events Instead, the leak is larger and the plane is suddenly blue with smoke. In such a situation, the pilot may have to land the aircraft as quickly as possible because the passengers and crew are unwell.
What is aerobic toxicity syndrome?
Most of the passengers who are fine after this smoke happened recover quickly. But among crew members, complaints are sometimes more urgent and some have to be taken to hospital. The explanation for this may be that pilots and cabin crew are also exposed to low concentrations of toxins, such as organophosphates, during “normal” flights. This may lead to hypersensitivity.
zimbella Made many broadcasts About the mysterious pilot disease. in broadcast”Poison in the Cockpit (2017)” We’ve shown how the airline industry is opposed to scientists looking for disease. We spoke to dozens of pilots, flight attendants, and flight attendants with serious health problems. Some of them are even unable to work. So does flight attendant Evelyn van den Heuvel. She sued because she did not receive a disability benefit.
The clinical picture varies from person to person. Hageman: “Some patients have more lung complaints or arrhythmias, and others have more neurological problems.” In the recently published study, the authors also cite other possible explanations, such as sleep deprivation, erratic shifts, jet lag, and working at high altitudes.
But why do some people receive complaints and others do not? It can be linked to a certain genetic susceptibility. There are indications of that. So the four authors insist on additional research: better detection equipment on board aircraft and extensive epidemiological research.
hold the silence
Toxic control and extensive research on sick and healthy crew members require the cooperation of airlines. And they’re not excited, we’re left at this Broadcasting to see. In fact, a sick KLM pilot was forced to fly again. When he finally left, he had to sign a contract of silence.
Manufacturers and airlines have denied or downplayed airborne toxicity syndrome for years. They assert that it is not certain that crew members actually get sick from flying. According to neurologist Hageman, it is always difficult to establish a connection between complaints and exposure to certain toxic substances with such disorders. It also took years before the so-called painter’s disease was officially recognized as an occupational disease.
In 2015, the Secretary of State, Wilma Mansfield, created the National Cabin Aviation Advisory Group (NAC). This advisory group must inform the Ministry and advise on this file. In addition to scientists, the NAC also includes representatives from the aviation industry. However, the quality and frequency of NAC’s reporting has been criticized for years, and was most recently highlighted in a broadcast pointer From KRO-NCRV.
in the last Report From NAC (from 2021): “The cause of the complaints is not yet clear. One possibility is that it concerns a small group of people who, due to genetic predisposition, are more sensitive to the health effects of some substances.”
When Zembla asks if the NAC believes new, large-scale epidemiological research is necessary, the answer is: “This is a question that members can ask.” NAC also states that the desirability of onboard detection equipment has been discussed within the advisory group, “but that has not yet led to advice”.
When asked by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, he said, “The minister will evaluate this advice very seriously, given the importance of safety.” Further research will also be supported. “For the minister, aviation safety is number one.”
According to the department, RIVM is currently involved in an international investigation into chemical exposure through cabin air.
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