A former flight attendant who was forced to retire after being involved in two so-called “fume events” within the space of a year has started a change.org petition calling on politicians to finally take action. Trudie Dadd, who had to step away from the job she loved in 2016 after over 20 years of experience as a member of cabin crew wants politicians and governments to make sure the air we breathe on commercial planes is clean and safe.
In just a few days, the change.org petition she started has attracted signatures from more than 111,000 people – Dadd is hoping that at least 150,000 will join her in calling on governments to take action on this serious health issue.
“Every day, many millions of people board an aircraft, which has become a normal way of transportation in everyday life. But what they do not know is that this flight could land them in a hospital or with debilitating illness because of exposure to toxic cabin air,” she explains.
“I am one of a growing number of people that have been affected… My health had deteriorated badly and tests showed that chemicals used in aircraft engine oil were present in my body. My GP advised me to stop flying,” she continues.
There is a growing body of evidence that aircraft cabin air can become contaminated with highly toxic fumes – normally from ‘bleed air’ which is unfiltered air that is drawn in from the aircraft engines. On some occasions, vapour from engine oil and toxic lubricants can become mixed in with the air that is breathed in by passengers and crew.
The only passenger plane not to use bleed air is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner but even then other sources of toxic cabin air from faulty air conditioning units and electrical malfunctions still pose a serious health risk.
Trudie would like to see regulators force airlines to fit air filters to planes to minimise these risks and install sensors that would detect the presence of potentially harmful fumes in the passenger cabin so that immediate action could be taken. In the event that an incident did occur, Trudie also believes that airlines should be obliged to report these events to the authorities who would keep a publicly searchable list.
Those are similar ideas suggested by Senator Richard Blumenthal who earlier this year tabled the Cabin Air Safety Act that, if approved, would force airlines to fit sensors and carry out investigations when toxic fume events did occur. Sen Blumenthal would also like to see airline personnel, including flight attendants, routinely trained in how to deal with a potential fume event.
In the UK, a major trade union is backing legal action in 51 cases involving toxic cabin air. The 51 court cases involve pilots and cabin crew working for easyJet, British Airways, Thomas Cook, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic.
Many airlines say fume events do not cause any long-term or serious health effects, although they acknowledge that it may leave peoples feeling nauseous for a short period of time.
Sign the petition here.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.