Aviation industry inquiries into neurotoxins in aircraft cabin air "will underestimate the real toxic potency" of the contaminant. This, says one of the world's primary experts in workplace contamination Prof Dietrich Henschler of Wuertzburg University, Germany, is because they assume that only one isomer of the poisonous tricresyl phosphate (TCP) is present, .
Henschler says the TCP vapour from heated engine oil that sometimes gets into engine bleed air used to pressurise aircraft cabins contains a mixture of mono-ortho-, di-ortho- and tri-ortho cresyl phosphate. The effect on the human brain and nervous system of this mixture is more toxic by a multiple of 10 or more than straight TCP, although that is serious, he adds.
Henschler says the toxicity and the neurological symptoms in humans are well established. He says: "They exert a toxic activity which we are well aware of." Henschler says the causal links to "these simple compounds" are easily traceable. He adds: "In view of the severity of the clinical symptoms and the ensuing fate of the patients involved, I would say it's a dangerous material."
Henschler, with other scientists and neurologists, will be speaking at the annual conference of the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive in London on 28-29 April.