Stirling academic calls for action on aircraft cabin fumes

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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) must do more to tackle the issue of contaminated cabin air on passenger planes, a University of Stirling academic has said.

Dr Susan Michaelis

Dr Susan Michaelis says the Civil Aviation Authority must do more to improve cabin air on passenger planes.

Dr Susan Michaelis, a former pilot, says a “clear gap” between the CAA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is putting airline crews and passengers at risk.

The visiting researcher will address delegates at the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference at Imperial College London on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Prof Andrew Watterson

Professor Andrew Watterson is speaking at the International Aircraft Cabin Air Conference.

The University’s Professor Andrew Watterson, Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research, will also speak to global experts at the two-day event.

The academics, from the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, will deliver a presentation on the health and safety regulations, standards and directives that apply to the aircraft cabin environment in relation to hazardous substances associated with contaminated bleed air supplies.

Dr Michaelis said: “There is a clear gap between the CAA and the HSE when it comes to the application and enforcement of standards that should afford protections to both crew and the public in terms of the aircraft breathing air supply.

“The CAA are relied upon to take the lead on hazardous substances on aircraft, but it does not have the expertise in this area. The HSE does have the necessary expertise, however, they leave it to the CAA.

“In short, protections present under occupational health and safety regulations in Europe are not being applied to the issue of contaminated air in aircraft cabins. Occupational health and safety regulators are inadequately meeting their responsibilities to ensure health and safe air travel.”

Dr Michaelis will present her recently completed work into how oil leaks from aircraft engines into the cabin air supply during normal flight operations. She will also review last year’s incident where an A380 aircraft was diverted into Vancouver with the entire crew being hospitalised after toxic fumes were reported in the cabin.

Meanwhile, Professor Watterson will host a presentation on exposure standards in aviation.

The conference provides a forum for the discussion of the risks posed by toxic air in aircraft cabins, with international academics presenting the latest scientific and medical evidence.

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