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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 02:29 GMT
In-flight air quality 'damages health'
Airline passengers
The association found pilots reduced airflow to save fuel
Airline passengers' health may be at risk from the poor quality of cabin air, the Consumers' Association has warned.

Little has been done to improve in-flight air, in spite of a number of reports of possible contamination on board BAe 146 aircraft, the association said.

The failure of the airline industry to respond to repeated warnings...doesn't give travellers much faith that their health is being sufficiently looked after

Patricia Yates, Which? editor

A report in Holiday Which? magazine said research had uncovered "a worrying lack of research and in-flight testing of cabin air quality".

It found that pilots reduced airflow to save fuel, and that pesticides sprayed around the cabin contained substances banned in the United States.

The BAe 146 has a well-documented history of air pollution complaints, the magazine said.

Members of both the flight and cabin crew have reported feeling faint. In once incident, a pilot required oxygen.

More action

British Aerospace, now BAE Systems, has taken steps to improve air quality, but Holiday Which? said more action may be needed.

"The failure of the airline industry to respond to repeated warnings around the world about cabin fumes on the BAe 146 aircraft doesn't give travellers much faith that their health is being sufficiently looked after," said Holiday Which? editor Patricia Yates.

"Who knows how many other common complaints about cabin air quality will prove to be well founded.

"Until further research is carried out, and standards are enforced, the uncertainty will continue."

Major findings

The study reached the following conclusions:

  • Pilots reduce airflow rates in the cabin to save fuel, despite denials by the airlines.

  • Substances banned in the USA are still used in cabin pesticide sprays.

  • Cabin pressure is supposed to be the equivalent of being at 8,000ft but some cabins have been set at higher than this.
  • There are no regulations on humidity or temperature.

    The BBC's Karen Bowerman
    "The consumer watchdog is demanding more research is carried out"
    Aviation Health Institute's Farrol Kahn
    "Aircrafts are incubators of disease nowadays"

    Talking PointFORUM
    Air health risk?
    Researcher Prof Hocking quizzed.
    See also:

    04 Sep 01 | Health
    Anger over air health claims
    23 Oct 00 | UK
    The seats of discontent
    10 Jun 01 | Health
    Airlines 'knew blood clot risk'
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