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Aerotoxic syndrome - Toxic airline cabin air could be making you sick

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June 17, 2010
by Mike Adams

(NaturalNews) Have you ever flown on an airplane and later become mysteriously ill? Maybe you developed a headache, had trouble breathing or experienced severe brain fog? These symptoms (and many others) just might be the result of breathing toxic fumes that regularly circulate throughout many commercial airline cabins.

Aerotoxic Syndrome, the unofficial name now being used to identify the laundry list of both acute and chronic symptoms caused by breathing contaminated jet cabin air, include things like chronic fatigue, respiratory difficulties, vision problems and cognitive disorder.

For some, the symptoms may be short-lived, but for others, persistent neurological damage may occur as a result of exposure, and many don't even realize it's happening until it's too late.

So what exactly is Aerotoxic Syndrome?

Airplanes fly at elevations that are thousands of feet above sea level where the air is cold and thin. If this air were to be pumped in directly from the outside, it would not be breathable for passengers. In order to make it suitable for breathing, it must be pressurized, heated, and then circulated to the passengers.

Originally, planes were designed with mechanical compressors that produced clean, suitable cabin air. But since the 1950s, most commercial planes have been redesigned to make cabin air by drawing in a compressed supply of it from plane engines (a less expensive way to produce it). Typically, this "bleed air" is mixed with existing cabin air and recirculated throughout the flight.

The only problem is that the area of the engine from which this air is drawn is often contaminated with toxic fumes from the friction that occurs between various moving parts and the oil that lubricates them.

These compartments are designed with seals that are supposed to block fumes from getting into the cabin, but they are not 100 percent effective. And like everything else, they break down over time, letting more and more oil mix with hot compressed air.

Sometimes so much oil mixes with air being drawn into the cabin that passengers will literally be able to see fumes and smoke filling the cabin. This is commonly referred to as a "fume event".

The type of oil used to lubricate plane engines is a complex, synthetic variety that has been specially formulated to endure extreme conditions. So naturally it is filled with all kinds of toxic components, including Tricresyl phosphate (TCP), a known neurotoxin that is used in pesticides and nerve agents.

Heavy metal particles such as nickel, cadmium and beryllium also make their way into the mix as the "bleed air" is drawn through engine channels. And because all of these different toxins are exposed to extremely hot engine air, there's no telling what kinds of new contaminants are formed by the time air enters the cabin.

According to the Aerotoxic Association, these toxins cause damage to the central nervous system that vary from person to person. Some people may experience immediate symptoms while others may notice a pattern of illness that becomes progressively worse over time.

How is the aviation industry responding to Aerotoxic Syndrome?

Not surprisingly, government and regulatory authorities will not even admit that Aerotoxic Syndrome exists. According to them, there is not enough evidence that the toxic fumes circulating in airplane cabins are responsible for any sort of illness. And vaccines are perfectly good for you too, by the way. And sunlight is bad for you. (The denials just never end...)

This is all quite astounding, considering the numerous testimonies from pilots, air filtration experts, flight attendants and passengers that have been harmed by toxic cabin air.

Take, for instance, the story of Tony Watson, a former commercial airline pilot who quit after ten years because of health problems. Blood tests revealed that his body was filled with petroleum-related chemicals that led to severe neurological damage, leaving him unable to fly planes.

And it's not just individuals making these claims. The U.K Parliament's House of Lords made a request back in 2007 that the substances contained in cabin air fumes be analyzed to determine safety. This group realized there was a problem and sought answers. But no answers were forthcoming...

A group from Cranfield University agreed to conduct the study and release the results by March 15, 2010, but it has yet to do so. And according to the Aerotoxic Association, the group may never release the report because the university has "close commercial partnerships with Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls-Royce, to name just a few".

So do all planes recycle toxic air?

According to the Aerotoxic Association, virtually all jet aircraft and turboprops use an air circulating system that is susceptible to toxic fumes. The only type of plane that uses non-bleed technology is the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

This commercial jet is the first one in over 40 years to be created using safe technology, despite evidence since at least the early 1990s that bleed technology creates toxic cabin air.

While the creation of this jet is a positive step in the right direction, neither Boeing nor any other jet manufacturer is willing to take responsibility for the thousands of other jets out there that continue to poison passengers and flight crews.

You would think that plane manufacturers would at least install filters to clean the bleed air before it enters the cabin, but they simply aren't doing this. Most planes don't even have contaminated air detectors to identify the presence of harmful toxins (probably because if they did, the alarms would never stop sounding).

The industry should admit to the problem

It's amazing to think that one little cost-cutting measure could have such incredible consequences. Whatever money was saved by plane manufacturers in converting to bleed air technology is nothing in comparison to the billions of dollars it may cost them to retrofit their planes with air filters that would protect passengers.

And that doesn't even consider the health care costs to the passengers, by the way.

In the meantime, companies like Boeing will gradually introduce new planes with the improved technology without ever admitting there was a problem with the old ones. And millions of people will continue to fly on old, toxic planes that are needlessly destroying their health.

Let's hope the growing media attention to this issue forces the aviation industry to address the problem, install proper filters on existing planes, and stop using air bleed technology on all future planes.

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