TRADE union Unite is calling for a public inquiry into toxic air in aeroplane cabins that could be causing long-term damage to passenger and flight crew health.
The campaign comes after a British Airways flight was forced to return to Boston after a “toxic smell” triggered a “May Day” call.
The BA flight was just one hour and 40 minutes into the flight to London when pilots made the decision to return to Boston.
Ten crew members were taken to hospital with reports suggesting three were seriously ill.
But it’s not the first incident of the kind.
Last year, BA passengers were left in shock after cabin crew were forced to put on smoke hoods after detecting “toxic odour”.
And scientists have previously warned how toxic fumes can cause serious health problems.
Unite is now campaigning for the industry to look into the threat of toxic air in the cabin which could cause aerotoxic syndrome.
Symptoms of the syndrome include feeling sick and dizzy, which could have dangerous effects on the body.
‘Dirty’ cabin air is thought to be caused by the way air enters the cabin.
Known as ‘bleed air’, it is contaminated by chemicals such as fuel and engine oil that mixes with the air before being breathed in.
Frequent flyers are most at risk, and Unite claims the industry is “downplaying” the serious threat.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Downplaying serious toxic fume events on board aircraft as ‘odour events’ smacks of spin and an attempt to manipulate official statistics to downplay how widespread the problem really is in the industry.
“Toxic cabin air is real and is damaging lives.”
The union is calling for additional tests to be carried on people who are thought to have died from their symptoms.
This can then confirm if the death is due to toxic cabin air or not.
A British Airways spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: “We would not operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew.
“We always encourage our colleagues to report any potential safety incidents to allow us to investigate them, and all reports are shared with the CAA.
“There has been substantial research into questions around cabin air quality over many years. In summary, the research has not shown that exposure to potential chemicals in the cabin causes long-term ill health. “
EasyJet announced in 2017 they would be installing new air filters on their planes due to fears of ‘toxic air.
Last year, cabin crew member Matt Bass, 34, died after suffering from symptoms related to aerotoxic syndrome.
His death resulted in an “unprecedented letter of concern” from the senior coroner requesting additional tests on deceased victims.
In 2017, researchers from Stirling University warned of the risk which found aircraft workers suffering from headaches, breathing and vision problems and dizziness, all related to aerotoxic syndrome.
Dr Susan Michaelis, part of the research group, said: “This is a clear occupational and public health issue with direct flight-safety consequences.”