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BA and CAA ordered to act on cabin air contamination

British Airways and the UK Civil Aviation Authority have been given 56 days (until 13 April) to reply to a Coroner’s “Report to Prevent Future Deaths”, that the December 2012 death of a BA pilot, Richard Westgate, was associated with the presence in his body of organophosphate toxins that are present in aircraft cabin air.

The report makes a series of statements about the presence of toxins in cabin air and their potential effects on occupants, then demands statements from both organisations about what they intend to do to prevent further such deaths.

The Senior Coroner for the County of Dorset, where the Westgate case is being heard, has advised BA and the CAA of his “matters of concern”, including: “That organophosphate compounds are present in cabin air; that the occupants of aircraft cabins are exposed to organophosphate compounds with consequential damage to their health; that impairment of the health of those controlling the aircraft may lead to the death of occupants; there is no real-time monitoring to detect such compounds in cabin air; that no account is taken of genetic variation in the human species, such as would render individuals tolerant or intolerant of such exposure.”

The Coroner has told BA and the CAA: “In my opinion urgent action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe your organisation has the power to take such action.”

The Coroner then advises the two organisations that it is in his power to demand that they supply to him the details of action they intend to take to counter the organophosphate threat to passenger and crew health, or to justify their intent not to take action.

BA comments: "We will respond to the coroner in due course. It would be inappropriate to comment further while proceedings are continuing.”

The issue of cabin air contamination has been in dispute across the industry for many years, and it can affect all jet airliners that use engine bleed air to pressurise and ventilate the cabin. The Boeing 787 is the only modern jet that does not use engine bleed air for the cabin.

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