Landmark toxic cabin air ruling

Unite welcomes a US ruling compensating a pilot after being exposed to toxic cabin air

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Unite has welcomed a landmark ruling in America, where a pilot for the airliner JetBlue won a compensation case after becoming chronically ill from exposure to toxic cabin air.

The pilot, Captain Andrew Myers, worked for JetBlue for 15 years. But then in 2017 he became ill with a number of alarming health conditions, including toxic encephalopathy, which is a neurologic disorder, and neurocognitive disorder as well as visual difficulties, which could be permanent.

The State of Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board ruled in favour of Myers, which in essence establishes the fact that Myers did indeed fall ill from toxic cabin air. This decision is significant because for years, the airline industry has denied the existence of what is known as aero-toxic syndrome, or exposure to toxic cabin air.

Myers will now be paid several years of compensation for loss of earnings and will also have his medical bills paid for.

“It’s the first case in the US to establish that the fumes that injured Myers are dangerous, though Myers is far from alone in his injuries,” Glen Lasken, Myers’ attorney, told the Independent.

“It’s a pretty ground breaking case. It’s a big victory for airline staff and passengers.”

Unite has long campaigned against toxic cabin air, through its calls for a full public inquiry, public pressure on the industry, and through court action.

Unite has supported 51 high court actions against five UK airlines after independent expert evidence concluded that the air in most commercial airline cabins can cause irreversible neurological damage and chronic illness among susceptible individuals.

The union backed claims allege that expert medical evidence shows long term exposure to cabin air or to high dose ‘fume events’ can lead to pilots and crew members developing chronic ill health and life threatening conditions.

The expert evidence for the court, relied upon in the claims supported by Unite, reveals how fumes from jet engine bleed air used to pressurise airline cabins contains a mix of toxic compounds including organophosphates and TCP.

Currently, the only aircraft model that does not bleed air from its engines is the Boeing 787.

“The airline industry cannot continue to hide from the issue of toxic cabin air whilst placing the health and safety of air crew at risk,” said Unite assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett, as he welcomed the ruling in America.

“Unite will use every avenue, including calling for a public inquiry and pursuing legal action, to get the airline industry to take responsibility and clean up the cabin air on jet planes.

“This must include using different oils to lubricate jet engines, better monitoring of cabin air, installing air filters and manufacturing planes that bring compressed air straight from the atmosphere.”

Unite is urging everyone who believes they may have been involved in a fume event to register here.

By Hajera Blagg

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