Are you a frequent flier that always suddenly feels sick during and after your flight? If you've already visited your physician, and they can't find any real illness, the chances are that you are be suffering from Aerotoxic Syndrome.
Using a plane for mobility certainly, has its advantages. You can quickly get to your destination in minimal time, compared to using other modes of transport. However, a lot of people are not aware of the lurking chemical poisoning danger that comes with using airplanes.
Aerotoxic syndrome first came into the limelight in 1999, when Dr. Harry Hoffman together with professor Chriss Winder and Jean Christopher jointly wrote a report highlighting their findings on the adverse health effects of chemical poisoning from jet fuel mist during flight. Aerotoxic syndrome affects the Central Nervous System (CNS), which means that it affects all the body organs. People with the syndrome have said that they felt as if they were in a "vegetative state" or "zombies on autopilot." What are the symptoms of Aerotoxic Syndrome? Symptoms of the syndrome are similar to those of;
- Chronic flu
- Parkinson's disease
- Lung disease
- Cardiac disease
- Severe allergies
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- Chemical sensitivity
Aerotoxic Syndrome symptoms
- Cognitive issues such as lack of concentration or being unable to string words together.
- Nosebleeds and sinuses
- Chronic fatigue
- Headaches and vision issues
- Hair loss
- Palpitations and tremors
- Digestion problems
- Joint and muscle pain
- Tingly hands and feet
How does aerotoxicity occur?
In high altitudes, it's impossible to maintain high pressure and a comfortable environment, and for those reasons, airplanes have to pump warm compressed air: bleed air into the plane. The jet engines supply the air into the aircraft, mixing it with cabin air, using a ratio of 50:50. The compressor that pumps bleed air into an airplane requires lubrication to separate oil and air. Most jet engines use wet seals for lubrication. Like with anything mechanical, wet seals wear out with time, limiting their ability to keep oil and air from mixing. The warm air mixes with oil, creating a hazardous environment known as fume event. A fume event happens when fumes and smoke enter the cabin. Can you get Aerotoxic Syndrome from using your car? The answer is no. Unlike automobile oil, jet fuel comprises a more potent mixture of chemicals and organophosphate additives. Because of operating at extremely high temperatures, jet fuel also gets pyrolyzed (chemically altered), heightening its toxicity. Damning new reports disclose that aircrew and passengers have reported feeling ill on every flight, which is alarming because researchers thought that aerotoxic syndrome only occurs in 1 out of 100 planes.
Aren't there any sensors in the cabin that can detect aerotoxicity? Sadly no. With all the technology in the world, fume event sensors do not exist. However, passengers and aircrew can learn a few pointers to help them identify events of cabin air contamination. The following are tell-tale signs of cabin air contamination
- The air smells like vomit, dirty socks, electrical burning or a wet dog.
- Blue haze or smoke visible with the naked eye
The degree of contamination is dependent on two factors;
- How often an airline services a plane
- Jet engine type
Short exposure to contaminated fumes usually resolves itself with time, while long-term exposure can lead to irreversible neurological damage. The commercial airline industry must stop downplaying the issue, and start acknowledging that the grave problem. The industry has to address the issue to safeguard both employee and passager (customer) health.