Two television stations, one German and one Swiss, have begun their own investigation in the face of consistent denials by airlines that passengers and crew are routinely exposed to neurotoxins, and have proved that it is true.
Assisted by Tim van Beveren, an investigative journalist who specialises in aviation related technical documentaries …
…German television network ARD and Schweizer Fernsehen (Swiss Television) have sent journalists on board ordinary flights with different airlines in various aircraft types. Their purpose was to take swabs from surfaces in aircraft cabins and have them scientifically analysed for their content.
The swabs vvere taken from measured surface areas (10 x 10cm) and sent to a laboratory for analysis. In all aeroplanes but one, measurable quantities of the neurotoxin tricresyl phosphate (TCP) were found to be present. Before I let Tim tell the story below, this blog is an appeal for crew and passengers who have reason to believe they have suffered even temporary effects from this and other toxins known to be present from time to time in cabin air to get in touch.
We have set up a forum specifically for this purpose on our community site, Airspace, on which we want pilot, cabin crew, and passengers who suspect they may have been harmed by a cabin air contamination incident to give details of what they have experienced and under what circumstances.
If you want to know more, visit the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive’s website.
I’ll let Tim tell the story of this investigation by the television companies:
“Within the last month reporters of ARD German Television Network and Schweizer Fernsehen (Swiss Television) secretly collected more then 30 swab samples from leading airlines such as Lufthansa, Swiss, Air Berlin, EasyJet and others. The samples were analyzed at the laboratories of the University of British Columbia, Canada, under the supervision of Professor Christiaan van Netten, a highly renowned toxicologist and expert in this field.
The samples were analyzed for tricresylphosphate (TCP) an organo-phosphate that is contained in modern jet oil as an antiwear additive. TCP is a known neuro-toxin. The manufacturer of the widely used synthetic jet engine oil, Mobil Jet Oil II EXXON warns about the inhalation of oil mist that may cause nervous system effects. But despite hundreds of reports and scientific articles by toxicologists from Australia, the USA and Canada, nothing has been done so far to prevent oil fumes from entering the cabin environment via the bleed air system of modern jet engine airliners. For more than a decade the issue has been controversially discussed in English speaking communities. But it has now gained momentum in Germany, as the first cases became known to the German Cockpit Association where pilots are suing their employers because they lost their licences because of ill health after what they claim were numerous toxic fume events.
“The German Accident Investigation Bureau, the Bundesstelle für Flugunfalluntersuchung (BFU), expressed its concern about the flight safety implications of such events and confirmed ARD that there is an annual average of 10 cases reported to them where crew members were incapacitated following smell or fume events within German registered aircraft. “But it seems that not all pilot reports make their way to the BFU”, says BFU investigator Karsten Severin.”
Tim reports the results, and here is just some of what the reporters found:
“Out of 31 samples, 28 were found positive for TCP. The three samples that were negative were all taken from the same aircraft, a year-old Boeing 737-700. The average amount of TCP found was 80 nanograms on a surface area of 10 x 10 centimetres. But higher amounts were found on three different 757s belonging to the German Charter Carrier Condor (part of Thomas Cook Group): on the aircraft registered D-ABOL the measurements were 154.950 nanograms on a 2 x 2 cm surface only. In the cockpit of the same aircraft the measurement taken a week before was slightly above 60,000 nanograms.
“757s have long been suspected of having higher cabin air contamination than other aircraft. Other high values were measured within the samples taken from BAe 146 / AVRO aircraft, operated by Swiss and Eurowings, the latter a subsidiary of Lufthansa. Despite modifications on these aircraft within the last years in an attempt to eliminate the contaminated cabin air events, on both types high amounts of TCP were found: between 244 and 544 nanograms on a 10 x 10 cm surface.
“Neither Swiss nor Lufthansa wanted to comment when being confronted with these findings. Condor issued a written statement saying that the “results may not allow conclusions about the toxicity on board of the sampled aircraft.”"