The toxic subject that won’t die

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.

I have blogged about this before. And we have investigated the subject ourselves and found it to be 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.”"


45 Responses to The toxic subject that won’t die

  1. TangoVictorBravo 9 February, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    I just would like to emphasize: under normal operation conditions 0 (zero) nanograms of TCP should be found in the cabin enviroment. It belongs into the oil that should stay in the engine, – not the cabin. We took all our samples under “normal operation conditions” on regular scheduled flights.

    For a follow up program to be aired soon we are looking for pilots and crewmembers who got incapacitated by smell and/or fumes events in the last years. We have indications to believe that not all events were properly investigated by the respective authorities or the investigation did just focus on “maintenance issues”.

    We would appreciate information about such events and we guarantee that we will treat information and individuals providing such information confidential.


  2. TCP for breakfast 10 February, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    I am a pilot and was made ill by the BAe 146 and then the Boeing 757. Of the dozens of pilots and cabin crew I’ve spoken to or know of, the majority flew one of these types. The documented evidence and independent studies on this issue show overwhelmingly that there is a big problem. It’s time the manufacturers, airlines and regulators were held accountable for the cover-up.

    The Aerotoxic Association has a page with various documents relating to the German and Swiss TV programmes.

  3. John Hoyte 10 February, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    Congratulations to the logical and honest style of the Germans and Swiss for presenting so clearly the cause of serious ill health in aircrew as a result of breathing heated engine oil in a confined space.

    Where are the British media who should be tracking this major public health issue?

    It is regrettable that even pprune is censoring anything to do with this subject, now.

    It will be inderstood one day very soon – the question will not be so much about the poisoning of innocent people but more about the joined up cover up, which denied it for so long….

    It is surely better to be roughly right – than precisely wrong? for further.

  4. Anonymous 10 February, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    Maybe I’ve missed something, but the presence of a chemical on a surface does not imply that the chemical is airborne.
    It’s at least reasonably likely that the TCP could have gotten on to those services by contact (e.g. an engineer wearing overalls that aren’t 100% clean gets on board and touches surfaces while fixing something). This could happen in a number of ways.

  5. David Learmount 10 February, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    We don’t normally post anonymous contributions, but you have provided me with a gift of an opportunity to point out that it is smug observations like your own that are the primary tactic being deployed by the entire industry in order to prevent this issue being taken seriously.

    Of course all intelligent participants in this debate know that the presence of a chemical on a cabin interior surface in an aircraft would not stand up in court as a sole piece of evidence that proves the TCP came from bleed air. But manufacturers and airlines have a duty of care to determine how the TCP did get onto the interior surfaces of all the aircraft in which it has been detected, because TCP is a dangerous neurotoxin. The latter is not in dispute.

    The manufacturers and airlines have failed to provide explanations as to how the TCP got there. More than that, they have not even tried to explain it, because they know they can’t refute the bleed air argument.

  6. Breathe Greasy 11 February, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    Having operated the B757 for awhile, I can confirm that I have been a victim to several fumes events and witness to what I could only describe as an industry-wide cover-up.

    This particular aircraft and certain engine combination, has, right from the beginning, been dogged by an on-going oil fumes problem which has never been resolved. The problem was rubbished by the original aircraft operators (enforced by sacking the crew who brought the first law suit). Now the same appears to be happening with the aircraft’s current owners.

    Although the DfT have been involved with testing, results are still being ‘massaged’. Apart from the very first few equipment validation flights (which were undertaken to decide what sensing equipment to use and where on the aircraft to place it), no aircraft with a previous history of fumes events were used in the test series. In fact, the only recorded significant fumes event occurred on one of the first equipment validation flights, but the data was discarded because ‘the flight was only meant to validate the use of the equipment, not to collate data’!

    During and following the trial, we were repeatedly quoted the ‘theoretically safe’ exposure quantities of the various chemicals being sampled. The problem with these figures is that they were all tested under ISA conditions in a laboratory, in ISOLATION and for single exposures. Goodness only knows what happens to the human body when repeatedly exposed to multiple, toxic chemicals in a cabin environment, at altitude.

    There have been many reported fumes events across the fleet for which a large number of pilots have gone sick (some only for a day, but others for considerably longer).

    Symptoms vary from sore/streaming eyes (with accompanying temporary blindness), nose and throat irritation, headaches, sickness and rashes, to name but a few.

    As the aircraft continue to age, this problem will only get worse. Significant effort needs to be put into not only finding an engineering solution, but also researching the long-term medical impact of exposure on the crews and passengers and possible compensation for those having been exposed, WITHOUT compromising future career prospects in the industry.

  7. Susan Michaelis 12 February, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    The swab test results undertaken by WDR/Swiss TV fall in line totally with the other swab tests that have been done around the globe. TCP is being found in almost all aircraft cabins on all aircraft types tested to date. This means people are being exposed to TCP a known neurotoxin & the additive in the engine oil.

    It is a shame that it takes the media to have to resolve this issue but it is the reality. The aerospace industry has had far to long & is in reality in such a state of denial or damage control. This fact is clear to those that follow what so many in the industry are doing: denial, damage limitation or straight misuse of the facts.

    I have been researching this issue for over a dozen years & the evidence is there that it is more likely than not that there are serious health and flight safety problems from exposure to engine oils & similar. The law is there that prohibits this in terms of aviation regulations, OH&S regulations & straight duty of care. To allow this to continue with so much evidence is negligent & unconscionable. There are solutions. The excuses from industry are tired & unacceptable.

    The smart ones will start to truly deal with the issue rather than deal with it to get the result they want. There are some positive moves underway, however far too slow & infrequent.

    My research can be found in the 844 page reference manual that I published: ‘Aviation Contaminated Air Reference Manual’. The Royal Australian Air Force undertook a review of this research as it is the only collated source of data available on the subject & said it was ‘groundbreaking’ & ‘seminal work’. The review is on my website & the industry denial is clearly stated.

    For those that think to sit on the fence is the way forward, that the evidence is not there or it is just too hard & leave it to others, this strategy is no longer wise. These views no longer stand up as there is too much evidence & real actions are required now by people from all areas involved in this issue.

    To think that the data is available going back 32 years showing crews being clearly impaired in flight from inhalation of synthetic jet engine oils, service bulletins acknowledging the problem from at least 27 years ago and airlines such as Dan Air & East West/Ansett vocally voicing their concerns about the health effects going back almost 20 years. This is just the start. How much more evidence do we need, how much more is out there? The experts in denial have no right to ignore such data & defer to science, the requirement for 100% conclusive proof when all that is required is: Is it more likely than not? Answer ABSOLUTELY YES.

    Some may think my line is hard, however I am entitled to say this as I KNOW the evidence. What I don’t have is the deep pockets to manipulate the issue and allow it to go on at the expense of flight safety & human health and careers. However the data is becoming more widely known and those in the game of denial or damage control no matter how nicely they dress it are running out of time. There is time to act now, change now & all work together.

    Well done Flight Global for raising this issue here & giving us a chance to speak, an opportunity to let people power work instead of corporate greed endorsed by Governments. Well done WDR and Swiss TV.

    People must speak out now, tell their stories, present the evidence & work together to stop this.

  8. TangoVictorBravo 12 February, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    Here is what a world leading manufacturer explained in January 2009 to a world leading airline maintenance about the issue. (Unfortunately the world leading manufacturer does not properly reflect the scientific available research, results and facts and refers to findings from the year 2000 that had to be relativated in 2007):

    “The subject of oil contamination of the aircraft bleed system by engine or APU, leading to cabin and flight deck fumes (and supposed by some to be toxic) has a long history. All aircraft that use engine or APU bleed air to supply the air-conditioning system have the potential to supply air to the flightdeck and cabin that is contaminated with oil due to failures within an engine and APU. However, Airbus do not believe there is any scientific evidence to show that such oil fumes have toxic effects on crew or passengers. We do note that large oil leakages leading to a haze or smoke can be unpleasant on the flightdeck (which generally receives more fresh air than the cabin in relation to its size) and the FCOM procedure under these circumstances instructs the pilots to use oxygen.
    Certain individuals and groups have claimed that engine and APU oil contain substances that can cause toxic effects on humans. The substance identified within aviation engine oils about which these claims are usually made is TRI-ORTHOCRESYL PHOSPHATE (TOCP).
    TCP is an anti-wear additive used for many years in aviation oils, it typically forms 1 to 3% of the oil. One component of TCP is Tri-Ortho-Cresyl Phosphate (TOCP). TOCP in high concentrations is indeed toxic. However, TOCP forms a very small part of the TCP additive, typically less than 0.1% of the TCP additive. With a little bit of mathematics you can see that the TOCP content of aviation oil is extremely small.
    In 2000, Airbus was invited to provide evidence to a UK Government inquiry into aircraft cabin health and safety matters. Airbus along with other aircraft manufacturers submitted evidence which included the calculation of a worst case scenario oil leakage into the aircraft air supply and the resulting level of TOCP in the cabin/flightdeck air. The calculation concluded that in the worst case scenario (total engine oil loss through the engine !), the level of TOCP was well below typical heath and safety limits. Please see the following extract:
    “4.39 Calculations by Airbus Industrie (Q 461 and refined in subsequent correspondence) showed that the worst-case scenario of the total discharge of an engine’s lubricant into the engine would result in about 0.4 kg of oil passing into the cabin ventilation systems. Assuming that the oil contained 3% TCP, of which 0.1% was TOCP, the peak cabin atmosphere TOCP level would be about 0.025 mg/m> 3, reducing as a result of normal ventilation thereafter. The peak level would be a quarter of the workplace limit of 0.1 mg/m3 (and less than a tenth of the emergency workplace limit of 0.3 mg/m3). Contamination at much lower levels would result in visible smoke and odour which would normally result in the crew switching off the ventilation feed from the affected engine. ”
    The conclusion that the report comes to in relation to this matter was:
    “The absence of confirmed cases of TOCP poisoning from cabin air and the very low levels of TOCP that would be found in even the highly unlikely worst case of contamination from oil leaking into the air supply lead us to conclude that the concerns about significant risk to the health of airline passengers and crew are not substantiated. ”

    I personally wonder if this company will issue a written statement that inhaling heated engine oils is safe and does not pose any risk to the health of any human being? – Or maybe their top management just inhales half a heated can, like other prominent people did in the past in regards to the mad cow disease, which wasn’t really an issue…, – was it…?

  9. Susan Michaelis 13 February, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    It is just incredible to think that this statement assumed to be from Airbus in 2009 can write such flawed information. As previously stated they refuse to look at the data, then put out such amazing incorrect data & assume they are above the law & can get away with it. As examples of the misinformation a few points in brief:

    - It is a problem of the design flaws of the bleed air system/ oil bearing seals as well as maintenance failures that may occur.
    - They just refuse to look at the scientific evidence that is available & the evidence as a whole.
    - More fresh air for pilots = more oil inhaled?
    - TOCP is the chemical of concern: Well it has been known since 1958 that the other ortho isomers (present in the oil), MOCP & DOCP are in the TCP in higher quantities & ar far more toxic than TOCP. this is either misinformation or ignorance. It was stated in 1958 that it was INAPPROPRIATE to refer to TOCP only. That’s 51 years ago. You would have thought the brains at the big manufacturers would have caught up by now.
    - The House of Lords statement from their 2000 report referred to here also incorrectly used the TOCP alone logic. They too were 42 years behind the published research. For Airbus? to still quote this in 2009 is truly amazing.

    Would be ok if the stakes in crew and passenger health, careers & serious flight safety implications were not so high.

  10. John Hoyte 13 February, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Any jet engine oil seal is designed to work ‘wet’ by allowing small amounts of oil to pass through the seal.

    This is why BBC Panorama found TCP on 2 so called random ‘normal’ flights in 2008.

    Just imagine how much more oil will pass through a damaged, worn seal…into the air that pilots, cabin crew and customers breathe.

    This subject is NOT rocket science and TCP does what it says on the tin.

    It is a neuro toxic poison.

    Jet lag explained – just like that!

  11. suzy 16 February, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    I am cabin crew. I have had health problems for 12 years – since 11 months after joining my present airline. I have been diagnosed as having peripheral and autonomic nerve damage, occupational asthma, chronic fatigue, pneumonia, cancer, chronic sinusitis and osteoporosis.I haven’t flown for over a year, on my last flight nearly all the cabin crew were ill. I wonder how many passengers were too?

  12. Anonymous 17 February, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

    Mr Learmount,

    I [the anonymous above] am not saying that there is no evidence for extremely dangerous airborne chemicals being present in passenger aircraft. The testimony of all of the above commenters (and others on the AirSpace forums) points to this being a real problem.

    All I’m saying (from a scientific point of view) is that that specific piece of evidence of surface-chemicals is not enough to prove it.

    For this subject to be taken more seriously, then the evidence needs to be better – or better-presented. If you’re fighting the good fight, you need to do it with a skin-tight argument (and with as little emotion as possible).

    What would you have said if the airlines had carried out tests that showed there was no TCP on surfaces? Would that be evidence of no airborne TCP?


  13. David Learmount 17 February, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    This is only the latest tip of the iceberg of evidence, and on its own it would not stand up in court. That’s because courts are not about truth, they are about the law, and the burden of proof in this case is with those who have been harmed. That is not justice, but it is the way things are.

    But the German media have just found TCP in more than 30 cabins, and where are the people in the industry who are in a position to deny that this was deposited by contaminated cabin air? We know they are reading this blog, and they know they have the chance to provide evidence to the contrary here, but they are choosing to remain silent because they have no explanation for the existence of the TCP except cabin air contamination by bleed air.

    Come on, you bleed air contamination deniers, where are your refuting arguments?

    I thought so. Silence. As usual.

    But I didn’t expect a result from the deniers anyway.

    What I want is the stories of those whose health has been damaged in the long term, or perhaps permanently, immediately following a single air journey or a series of them. The effects of this poisoning is normally cumulative, which is why it affects more crew than passengers. We have the records of many of them. We want the stories of people who did not know who to talk to. Please talk to us now. We can use what you tell us.

  14. Susan Michaelis 18 February, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    I can certainly understand why you do not want to use your name on this post based on what you are saying:

    “It’s at least reasonably likely that the TCP could have gotten on to those services by contact (e.g. an engineer wearing overalls that aren’t 100% clean gets on board and touches surfaces while fixing something).”
    “All I’m saying (from a scientific point of view) is that that specific piece of evidence of surface-chemicals is not enough to prove it.”

    Please, show some intelligence & lose your industry bias.

    Clearly you have not read the rest of the evidence available. I published 844 pages of it in the
    Aviation Contaminated Air Reference Manual in 2007. Then again that will only have been about 50% of it.The manual will be updated shortly & the evidence you & your colleagues are allowing to be unaddressed is growing by the day.

    When you have looked at all of the evidence or most of it as I & others have then come back & discuss it properly.

    Your industry affiliations are clearly obvious.

    My bias is that I have seen the evidence & I want a healthier & safer work environment in the sky. I stand to benefit nothing. In fact I lost my job & health & so have too many others. We do have the evidence & it’s there for anyone who wants to see it & rationally look at it.

  15. Claudia Mercer 18 February, 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    My husband flew the BAe146 for two years in the early ’90s. Since then he has had medical problems. First it was headaches, then shortness of breath, dizzy spells, depression. After ten years of this he had to take early retirement. Medical investigations showed peripheral and autonomic nerve damage. Now his sight is poor, he suffers memory loss and has difficulty moving. The latest diagnosis is some form of neurodegenerative disease. It seems too much of a coincidence that all this started when he flew the BAe146; before that his health was excellent.

  16. Tristan Loraine 19 February, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    I have told a small part of my story in the film ‘Welcome Aboard Toxic Airlines’

    I have spent nearly 10 years looking at these issues and doctors found Tricesyl Phosphate in my blood after a contaminated air event.

    The whole issue can be broken down into 4 parts:

    Health Effects
    Human Rights
    Flight Safety

    Health Effects

    Some people do not accept the medical evidence, the CAA accepted the medical evidence my doctors gave them without question and took away my licence.


    Who is liable for the fact the problem has not yet been resolved? Oil manuafcturers, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, unions, politicians, safety regulators, air accident boards, crews, health and safety agencies, EASA, FAA, COT, government agencies etc… Probably all share some of the blame but the longer the problem goes on the more people will have their lives ruined, die or suffer the daly consequences of these exposures.

    Human Rights

    In my view, without doubt airlines failure to inform passengers when they are exposed to contaminated air is a breech of human rights.

    Flight Safety

    The debate over health effects and liability could continue for decades without any resolution but the fact aircraft have no form of detection system to warn pilots when the air is contaminated with chemicals which have incapacitated crews is a scandal in an industry that prides itself on safety. Airlines, crews, unions and the regulators know crews are not following aircraft manufacturers guidelines to use oxygen when they suspect the air is contaminated but everyone turns a blind eye and the public are kept in the dark.

    The travelling public put their lives in the hands of the airline industry and crews are the weakest link.

    Detectors need to be fitted urgently as crews cannot be relied upon due the political, finacial and legal nature of the problem.

    The air supplied should be supplied ‘Bleed Free’ or filtered.

    An open international Public Inquiry is needed not a white wash British COT investigation which is a scandal and disgrace to the nation. The facts are there for anyone to see: Aviation Contaminated Air Reference Manual

  17. Alan Downey 19 February, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    I note that the B737-700 was found not to have contaminated cabin air. However, has anyone checked the air in the vicinity of the engine exhaust of this type after shutdown? This is an area ground staff are exposed to daily and choking fumes are clearly visible emanating from the oil breather system. If the CFM 56-7 engine is started and run briefly after servicing, it is considered normal to find a pool of oil sitting in the exhaust. Can CFM also explain why their newer engines use 50% more oil than their older models? Where does the oil go?

  18. lucy 20 February, 2009 at 12:32 am #

    Dear Anonymous

    I was exposed to TCP in October 2005. Since then I have a number of ailments that have left me disabled. I breathing and sinus problems, dizziness, headaches mental confusion, brain damage, joint and muscle aches, fatigue, digestive problems,skin allergies and rash,loss of sensation to my lower extremities, depression and anxiety. I have also developed tumors in my brain and salivary gland. This has affected me emotionally, mentally and financially.I was wondering if you could tell me, why would anyone put themselves through this hardship?????????

    If this is not airborne…then how did i get exposed????

    Wait…..I remember………I was busy SNIFFING the “engineers” overalls!!!!!!!!

    Let me tell YOU….i will NEVER forget the odor and the smoke/haze that burned my throat, eyes and lungs. The inability to breath and massive headache which incapicitated me. (as well as the rest of the crew and some passengers)

    Try educating yourself before you make such remarks, as i am living proof that it is “airborne”.

  19. poisoned 20 February, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    I am stuck at home shattered, my career ruined. All my medical reports concure with those of many other tested pilots -poisoned flying 146. Sorry I can’t write more but am feeling too sick…

  20. Boeing 757 Co-Pilot 21 February, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    I am a current Boeing 757 pilot and my view on these matters is that crews are dealing with these significant flight safety issues like people did 40 years ago with drink driving….The ‘I’ll be OK’ attitude.

    I have told my union BALPA that flight safety is being compromised and something should be done but they don’t want to deal with the issue. One BALPA person in Flight Safety said it was all in the head which is very sad. No doubt one day BALPA will regret their denial.

    On another note an informal chat on the matter with a Training Captain last week after a sim check resulted in him saying: ‘If you want your job I would keep a low profile.’

  21. johnnyp 21 February, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    As a frequent flyer I have often smelt contaminated air onboard aircraft and the cabin crew always told me it was like a cooked bread smell in a bakery and totally harmful.

    This is outrageous as I have often gone into meetings after flights way below power and not thinking clearly. It makes sense now.

    A quick search of the internet shows this problem has been reported for bloody years and nobody does anything.

    I will be writing to my MP requesting a Public Inquiry especially when solutions exist to resolve the problem!

    WE pay the fares and we deserve clean air.

  22. Lubricated 23 February, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    B757 F/O wrote:-
    “On another note an informal chat on the matter with a Training Captain last week after a sim check resulted in him saying: ‘If you want your job I would keep a low profile.”

    May I therefore suggest:-
    If you want your health and therefore a career, then change types or profession asap!
    Not much consolation, I know, but then again potential exposure to TOCP isn’t either!
    Unfortunately the Training Captains statement denotes the underlying aparthy from within the industry.

  23. Mike Fox Mike 23 February, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    Joined a major European Operator and climbed up from the regional turboprops on to the big jets. A few years ago I was sent home after a type recurrent, all results were “SLOW” and I could hardly remember my own name anymore. Memory items were already an issue for half a year prior to this occasion, which I had to study for at least half an hour before every flight. My occupational doctor decided it was a “burn out” and advised me to sit in front of the tele. He wasn’t sure what to do with me and also called in a psychologist to treat me. “It would make his position look stronger!”, he said. It felt a bit like being sent to the physio with a broken leg.

    A year later I came in contact with a colleague of BA, who was in the same miserable condition. He brought the contaminated air issue to my attention. I was stunned. Having been an Aviation Medical Examiner in the past and never heard of this before I started to dive into this matter. Found a lab in the US which showed Organic Phosphate metabolites in my body to be way above maximum. This, a year after last exposure! I showed these “evidence based results” to my company-occupational doctor. He refuted everything and said that this was caused by the vegetables I eat and other very “scientific” statements. Then I got hold of two cabin filters of two different modern jetliners out of the fleet, one only two years ex factory, and had them examined. It was full with TCP. Showed this test result to my company doctor, who again, went into full denial. He called in another Prof. Dr. friend of his and both of them started to convince me that I would find this TCP also behind the refrigerator in my own house, it was my psychological problem, it was again from the biological vegetables which I eat, the test was American and not valid in Europe! Hmmm, which medical university did you say?

    I went on to our top-management. The good man had never heard of toxic compounds in the cabin before and after half an hour he said he would sent it to the VP in charge of this subject. Utter silence. I forwarded an update of a second test to him a month later, lo and behold a answer by email. He had forwarded it to my boss. It was a problem of the industry and not of the company!
    My last flight was a long haul on our newest “flagship from Seattle”, of which the engines do consume an average of 1 litre Mobil Jet Oil II/hour. After 6 hours symptoms started to appear: severe headache, nausea. I had anticipated this and donned my special Dreager Gas-mask, of which I was told is only used occasionally in remote areas like Iraq. Symptoms started to recede after 20 minutes. I decided that this was the last time I would ever be on a jetliner again.
    During the 2 day turn around I found 3 out of 12 Cabin Attendants describing to me the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathia, also know as severe degradation of the peripheral nerve system ending up in a symmetrical numb feeling of lower arms and hands. That is 25% of a further normal and healthy population of around 40 years old, suffering from long term exposure of TCP.

    Our union: the management of our company asked them to not publish anything about this subject. It has been decided on behalf of all the members, without their knowledge and consent to fully comply with this request for the coming years.

    Status Quo after a few years: regained most of my health after a 3 month detox, found all types (4) in our fleet 100% positive on TCP in the cabin (some also in separate air samples), have it been explained to me by an engineer why and where in these engines there is always, yes always, some oil fumes leaking away passing the oil seals (4 mm rubber bands sitting there for about 7 years around these shafts, slowly drying up and becoming brittle) and the different paths these fumes do follow to end up in the bleed air. The can of Mobil Jet II oil we use, states there is TCP as an additive, the same stuff I found in the cabin of all the different turbine aircraft and of which our EU International Chemical Safety Card (ICSC:0961) states that we need “local breathing protection” without mention of a minimum dose. I think it is a matter of time before the “aviation industry” will need a serious explanation in front of different courts.

  24. Ben Holmes 24 February, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    I have been sick since 2005. I have flown both the 747 and 777 both with Rolls Royce engines. I can’t describe the effect this has had on me personally, financially and emotionally. My symptoms mirror those of so many others on this forum that it is impossible to be a coincidence. Today I struggle. Remembering where I left the cup of tea I just made. My brain, my body and my life has been destroyed. The disgrace is that it was sanctioned! They knew before, they know now. It is time for them to pay!!

  25. jillaroo 24 February, 2009 at 12:26 pm #

    I was a Cabin Manager(BAe146,A320 and others) until cumulative exposures resulted in my health deteriorating to a point beyond which it was irretrievable and I could no longer continue to effectively or safely perform my duties in the role as a Cabin Manager.
    My symptoms include but are not limited to:
    anxiety, depression, dizziness, headaches, hand tremor, memory failure,extreme fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivities.
    Implications for me personally are:
    *financial due to restrictions with where I can work,
    *ongoing related health issues affecting everyday life,
    Tristan Lorraine’s comments breaking the issue down into the following 4 points clarify the topic more than adequately-any one of them on its own deserves thorough investigation at the highest level.

    •Health Effects
    •Human Rights
    •Flight Safety

    I can only hope that it does not have to take too many lives in one form or another before this is realised…….

  26. Gas Man 24 February, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    I too have suffered greatly from the disgrace of what only can be called the greatest cover up since the Asbestos fiasco years ago. I suffered from exposures from contaminated air for 8 years and had to take a year off from flying to help recover. I had all the various tests which confirmed that I had been exposed to contaminated air, with a whole alphabet of Neurotoxins, including TOCP, Benzene’s,( yes there are more than one type) Hexane, N Heptane, Phenol, Carbon Monoxide, just to name a few. More alarming was that a Chest X Ray showed that all the lymph nodes around the lung area lit up like a Christmas tree, with the doctor asking if I had ever suffered from pneumonia! Which, as far as I was aware, I had not. I now know this to be a sign of “Chemical Pneumonia” caused by inhalation of Petrochemical by products, Smoke, Fumes, Aerosols and Vapours.

    I have numbness in some of my toes and tingling/burning in the soles of my feet and occasionally the Palms of my hands
    I still continue to have recall problems and occasional dizzy spells for no apparent reason.

    Balpa were next to useless and are obviously having their “Strings Pulled” from on high. After I left the airline there were a considerable number of high profile cases hitting the Press and TV channels, it would appear nothing has changed, as there are still recent reported cases in the local press.

    Whatever happend to the Treaty of Rome’s “Precaution Principle”?
    Why is the Industry still getting away with it?
    Why isn’t Health and Safety doing anything about it?
    Whatever happend to Duty of Care?

    Don’t even get me started on the Flight Safety aspect, which does not bare thinking about. When there is a serious accident and there will be; it won’t be an accident, it will be gross negligence as with all the information and technology available, it could have been prevented.

    Gas Man

  27. Mahes 24 February, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    I was affected by flying in June 2005 but have managed to overcome most of my complaints with complementary therapies – many of which can be bought off the shelf. Please dont despair – your body is capable of recovery with a little help. But, I must say I have stopped flying since then even though I miss seeing my family and friends.
    See my report at:

  28. avrojock 24 February, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    I am a pilot and I was flying the AVRO RJ for one of the major European carriers. I was suffering for more than a decade until I stopped flying that aircraft. Oil fumes in the cockpit and the cabin are everyday business and in spite of all the reports crews are filing the airline just doesn’t give a damn. They just keep doing what they have always done, poison crews and passengers ruthlessly and they even don’t comply with the service bulletins they have from BAe. When management talks about safety it’s all lip service. As long as people don’t drop dead on the plane management is interested in schedules, benchmarks and money only.

    Like many of my fellow pilots I have had all the short term symptoms during and after flights on aircraft with that well-known oil smell: headache, nausea, sore throat, fatigue, dizziness, sleepiness at day and sleeping problems at night, blurred vision and so on. There were flights when we were using oxygen in the cockpit, because the oil smell was so bad. All the short term symptoms disappeared when I stopped flying that aircraft but heaven knows how those oil fumes affected my health in the long term. I am no longer inhaling oil fumes but many other people still are day after day. And they don’t have an oxygen mask.

    When you board the plane as a passenger and there is a strange odour, ask the crew, voice your concerns and when you feel bad, don’t fly with that aircraft. And make yourself heard. Maybe the crew would be very grateful.

  29. Patricia Allen 24 February, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    I am a frequent flyer, who often travels Business Class. When I select who to fly with from A to B I take into consideration previous experience and flight safety concerns.

    In the UK where I live I refuse to fly British Airways and Fly Be who both fail to inform passengers when they are exposed to oil fumes.

    I pay a small fortune in fees for taxes etc… let me and my fellow passengers pay another £ 1 a flight for clean air PLEASE!!!

    Yet another example of the Government failing the people.

  30. Beer Fan 24 February, 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    I have suffered not only on the 146 but also on the A320 I now fly.

    The BAe 146 has had this problem since the first flight, BAe knows it, the CAA know it, the Government know it and BALPA have known about it as we told them about it, not once, but time and time again. Everyone has looked the other way.

    You can expect the avaition industry and Government to look after their own but BALPA is gutless. Only one guy in BALPA tried to do anything and tried to change things. He was from memory a British Airways pilot who recently made the Toxic Airlines film about this but he stood alone trying to get the union to be a union when all around him did nothing. That guy deserves a medal and the rest of the union should be prosecuted for negligence.

    How many more need to get sick?

  31. John Saxon 24 February, 2009 at 5:56 pm #

    I agree with ‘Beer Fan’ that BALPA is as guilty as the industry on this massive corporate cover-up.

    The guy ‘Beer Fan’ refers to is Tristan Lorraine, ill health retired from the World’s favourite airline by the CAA.

    A BALPA lady once said to me he wasn’t looking after the financial needs of the industry…Well forgive me lady but my health comes first and he gets my vote. God bless.

    Let’s also not forget the Air Accident Investigation Branch. They are also guilty as charged. I have written 39 Air Safety Reports in the last 12 years about being gassed against my will and they have rang me ZERO times… Enough said :)

  32. ex757driver 25 February, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    Having flown the Boeing 757 for most of my career I did not experience a major oil leak incident but I was subjected to frequent short term exposures. I am told this was due to the non-standard engine oil filling procedure at a certain large Britiish airline.

    I was diagnosed with Parkison’s Disease in 1996 and managed to carry on flying on a different aircraft for 2 years but on returning to the 757 fleet my health deteriorated again and I lost my licence after another2 years.

    Since then my health has declined slowly but gradually. I am now on the waiting list for DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) treatment which may restore some of my capabilities.

    When asked whether there was a connection betwween flying and P.D. the reply was ” Yes I believe there is.”

  33. ex 146 pilot 26 February, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    I am a former 146 pilot (3000 hours on type) who lost my licence approximately 10 years ago at the age of 29 due to ill health. I had two episodes of partial incapacitation two years apart. The first was put down to being 5 months pregnant (and operating) but the second, after a severe chest infection, worried me enough to discuss with my doctor more fully. I was referred immediately to a neurologist who advised me that these episodes were most likely “simple partial epilepsy”. I was immediately grounded and further tests with more eminent doctors revealed little to back up this diagnosis, except that a 24 EEG noted that I had slightly unusual brain activity which was seen in people who had sustained some kind of brain injury (which I had not). Since then I have had a mere suggestion of these episodes every so often. No one has ever offered an explanation of why I had abnormal EEG readings when my initial tests for licensing had been completely normal. I am now convinced that this brain injury is related to inhalation of TCP type gases.
    Last year I lost a friend and 146 colleague to a malignant brain tumour and I have been very sad to learn that another is suffering from the very same illness. The body of evidence is growing for contaminated air to be properly investigated…when will the CAA and British government wake up!!!

  34. Paul 3 March, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Last December i had a conaminated air event, missed the cleared level 3 times, got the approach spped wrong, mis set the QNH and set the wrong minima. My co-pilot didn’t pick up any of these errors. Engineers said best not to report it but they would sort it out.

    Is flight safety about to kill someone? Absolutely and the CAA don’t care.

    Two of my mates who got their PPLs with me have died of Motor Neuron Disease.

    Is health being sacrificed? Absolutely but the HSE don’t care.

    Welcome to the world of corportate negligence.

  35. Anonymous 3 March, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    Thank you for taking care in this subject.
    I am on the 757 with RR-Engines now for 9 years and I always wondered about sleeplessness and heavy heartbeats,as well as other strange things happening to my body and brain!
    In our airline ,we always were led to to the idea, that the strong smell comes from glue of the carpetfloor and that any smell on board “is normal”.
    The strong headache after many flights and the feeling of getting a cold became a normal situation and we blamed the long days with a lack of oxygen, as well as the fact of missing ozon-filters on our fleet.
    I strongly believe in the shocking results of german tv-station, as the amount of tcp found on board of three of our aircraft was much higher than on any other aircraft-type!
    The reaction of our board of directors to calm down the crews shocked me.
    They stated, that the airquality in our aircrafts is BETTER than in any public building or in office!!!
    Now as I started investigations and put focus during briefings on the problem, I experienced heavy pressure from my company….

    I was missing articles in German press and had to learn, that magazines were put under pressure from leading German airlines (promoting Stern,Spiegel,Focus on board).
    Make up your mind and don’t close your eyes!!!

  36. TangoVictorBravo 3 March, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    Dear Anomynous as of March 3rd, 2009 12:12 PM

    I was also shocked when we at WDR got the response from your management. Seems they don’t have a clue how to proceed with this issue and yes it is serious on your fleet as we even have samples from the same a/c with one week in between. This was done, because we first did not believe the results we got. The second time it had increased even more which I find very scary.

    If I would have a say within Condor and being a responsible person and I pilot as you may be aware, I would have grounded that particular ship right away.
    Your company knows the tail numbers, as we did provide these.

    If you may feel any need to pass any information along, please contact me at We will treat all information confidential. But we will follow up on this issue very soon… promised!


  37. TangoVictorBravo 3 March, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    The ARD – plusminus broadcast is online for viewing in an English language version at:



  38. TCP for breakfast 4 March, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    I mentioned the Aerotoxic Association before. Could I also add this link of victims’ testimonies …

    As has been seen on this blog, the testimonies show a common theme: Years of ill health, mis-diagnoses and inappropriate treatment, and in the case of aircrew, absolutely no help from their employers. Then followed by a stumbling on the truth after extensive research by the victim.

  39. United States is different 14 March, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    It seems that there are very few Unithed States based websites on toxic cabin air. One of the few U.S. based websites is Why is that?

    It seems that all of the studies and government actions regarding TCP and toxic cabin air are all in Europe or Australia. Is there a reason? Do the airlines in the U.S. have some kind of government protection?

  40. Mike Parker-Stow 15 April, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    I started flying the Ba146 in 1988 until my enforced retirement in 2004 ,when I was pronounced as suffering from Organophosphate poisoning.This caused my Sinus to be inflamed and a resultant swelling causing respiratory problems,headaches,memory loss.I had submitted several MORs(ASRs) but only a change of Safety Officer brought about an investigation.Several other Crews were affected,some young as well as old.I had to have an operation which went wrong,and I suffered a severe secondary infection.On a head to head with my wife,the Consultant Neurologist stated that I had suffered from continuous Organophosphate Poisoning Symptoms,which had resulted in me having the operation to relieve the problem.However both the CAA and my Company took fit to claim it was my Secondary Infection,not the Toxic Fumes,that was responsible for my loss of licence,through the removal of my medical.It took over 18 months to get back to any quality of life,and when flying passenger since,especially in 757s,the old symptoms return.Headaches,sore throat,Hay fever type runny nose and blocked ears.It does not go away.

  41. Mike 26 April, 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    As a first officer on 737s I am the one that does the exterior inspection. Most times the inspection is done right after the aircraft blocks in and the engines are still hot. Smoke from burning oil is coming out the back of the engines and I usually inhale several breaths of this smoke during the walk around. My concern is if this smoke is just as bad as the toxins that may enter an aircraft through the pneumatic system or is it worse due to the concentrations? Right now I am not experiencing any negative symptoms but I would like to keep it that way.

  42. troy moeller 18 May, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Having worked on board a Perry Class Frigate and an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer as a Gas Turbine Systems Tech Mechanical USN the stark truth is that we entered the Engine Enclosures on a regular basis. That is with the Cumbustor Sump blowing the atomized synthetic lube oil all over us and unfortunately in us. I was diagnosed with “Adult Onset Asthma” just a few months after reporting to the Fleet. The downward spiral of my pulmonary health took years to realize and even longer for VA pension compensation. I realized a long time ago who the culprit was but what do I do? While grateful for the pension it doesn’t begin to recompensate me for lost wages or harm done me. I also would like the Navy to address the fact that thousands of GSM’s are still in harms way. If anyone might have any help/info please feel free to contact me at

  43. Poisoning symptoms 10 August, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    We don’t normally post anonymous contributions, but you have provided me with a gift of an opportunity to point out that it is smug observations like your own that are the primary tactic being deployed by the entire industry in order to prevent this issue being taken seriously.

    Of course all intelligent participants in this debate know that the presence of a chemical on a cabin interior surface in an aircraft would not stand up in court as a sole piece of evidence that proves the TCP came from bleed air. But manufacturers and airlines have a duty of care to determine how the TCP did get onto the interior surfaces of all the aircraft in which it has been detected, because TCP is a dangerous neurotoxin. The latter is not in dispute.

    The manufacturers and airlines have failed to provide explanations as to how the TCP got there. More than that, they have not even tried to explain it, because they know they can’t refute the bleed air argument.

  44. Anna D. Sandefer 12 September, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    In June of 2006, I was poisoned by an APU Oil Gasket Leak in the back of an AB 321. The APU was replaced and the airplane put back on line within weeks. I was in the hospital 3 times. Once for intestinal problems, then for Heart and lungs….the doctors thought I was haveing a heart attack. Then for brain scans for toxic encephelapathy. I still can not believe how much has been covered up about this. As a flight crew member, I knew nothing about this toxin on airplanes, until I got it. TOCP poisoned me and I still have toxic encephalopathy among many other major problems. Look on for all the latest updates.I no longer fly …my career of 29 years ended in July 2008. Hope the House of Representatives get the ball rolling soon.
    Anna D. Sandefer

  45. GCAQE 11 December, 2009 at 11:37 pm #


    This is the first time that EASA has asked for crewmember input so it is really important that we respond. Submission deadline is 8 January 2010. EASA promises that personal information will be kept confidential.
    Even if you’re not working on an European airline, report your story as well, please.

    Info and links here: