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Delta Flight Attendant Uniforms Found to Contain Toxic Chemicals in Levels 10x Higher Than What’s Permitted by H&M

Delta Flight Attendant Uniforms Found to Contain Toxic Chemicals in Levels 10x Higher Than What’s Permitted by H&M

Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

An item of uniform worn by Delta’s flight attendants was found to contain a toxic chemical in levels nearly 10x higher than what the popular fast-fashion chain H&M would permit according to lab testing conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA). Delta admitted in January that at least 2,000 flight attendants had made some form of complaint concerning suffering adverse health effects including extreme skin reactions to the Zac Posen-designed uniform.

Delta had previously said that its own independent chemical lab testing of 628 uniform items found there was no “attributable health risk” from wearing the garments which were first introduced in 2018. Soon after the uniform was rolled out some flight attendants reported a host of symptoms including painful itchy rashes, hives, shortness of breath and sore eyes.

Photo Credit: IAM

The latest “toxic uniform” scandal is said to have helped AFA in its drive to unionize Delta’s flight attendant workforce after allegations surfaced that the Atlanta-based airline was attempting to coverup the true extent of the problems. The airline has since removed an optional apron from the collection after it failed chemical testing and has earmarked $10 million to pay for ‘off the rack’ uniform alternatives for flight attendants who do suffer an adverse reaction.

According to the Association of Flight Attendants, Delta is also planning a “completely new” uniform program in response to the scandal which was originally slated to be completed as early as late 2021. That timeline may, however, be pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its continuing effects on Delta’s cashflow.

Lab testing conducted on behalf of the union found that the red women’s outerwear coat contained the chemical chromium in levels that were almost 10 times the amount that H&M would allow. The union described chromium as a toxic chemical and an irritant that “should not be present in clothes”.

The tests also found the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium in one style of uniform dress and wool-blend suiting pants for plus size flight attendants. Meanwhile, a style of ‘thistle pink’ shirts contained formaldehyde, albeit within allowed limits.

Unlike Delta’s tests, the recent lab analysis commissioned by AFA was only conducted on a small number of garments which had been donated by flight attendants. All the items tested had not been worn and were still in their original packaging.

Delta Will Finally Give its Flight Attendants More Rest Between Flights
Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

The union also admitted that data from the tests “does not tell the whole story” adding that “thousands upon thousands of chemicals” are routinely added to fabrics to impart certain properties like stain resistance and a wrinkle free finish. The same chemicals are said to have caused similar reactions in flight attendants at American Airlines, Alaska and Southwest after new uniforms were introduced.

Both American Airlines and Alaska introduced entirely new uniform collections following their own scandals and attained OEKO-TEX Standard 100 to assure the quality of the garments.

Delta declined to specifically comment on AFA’s own lab testing of its uniform but a spokesperson said that its “top priority has been and continues to be addressing our employees’ concerns.”

“We invested in a rigorous toxicology study to determine if there is a universal scientific issue with the uniform,” an emailed statement from the airline continued. “The results of the study confirm our uniforms meet the highest textile standards – OEKO-TEX – with the exception of the optional apron, which we removed from the collection.”

“We have been working directly with our employees to offer numerous alternative garment options and providing access to the country’s top medical experts,” the statement concluded. AFA continues to push for a complete and immediate removal of the current uniform.

View Comment (1)
  • I feel I have suffered both sinus and eye damage from the complementary economy Delta eye masks.
    Considering them a lovely gift, I would use them to help me rest at home in my hectic few years as a frequent flyer between Europe and the U.S. juggling family matters on both continents as a caregiver to my parents and doing the hands-on preparation work for their homes to be sold. These masks must be tested for toxicity! Only toward the end of this period when I once saved then opened a sealed packet off the plane did I experience an overwhelmingly strong chemical odor attack my senses which left my eyes feeling burned. To be sure on my next flight I opened another eye mask packet and had the very same reaction so it was not just a one-off. I felt so absolutely overwhelmed that countless numbers of these were being distributed to passengers on a daily basis. Planes always have strong fumes flying around so there I did not detect it specifically, but hear, hear…my close vision deteriorates since wearing economy Delta eye masks for sleep aids.
    I have not built any sort of a case…just soldier through my now blurry close vision and heightened sinus issues. Let it be known I feel chemically poisoned and bid others are prevented from also considering these eye masks as courteous gifts instead of as the highly toxic trash that they truly are…they should be banned! I’m not surprised your Delta uniforms are toxic, not at all…and for that I am truly sorry as I know very well that toxic air quality in planes is already a major health issue, certainly for attendees.

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