Australian Flight Attendant Wins Toxic Airplane Air Lawsuit

A former East-West Airlines flight attendant was awarded almost $130,000 in damages from Australia’s High Court, AOL Travel reports. According to Joanne Turner, she suffered long-term respiratory issues after breathing in smoke on a Sydney-to-Brisbane flight in 1992, said AOL Travel. The finding puts <"">airplane cabin air quality in question.

Turner, who filed the suit about 10 years ago in 2001, said “I just hope it will help fellow crew members who also have cases before the courts and help the industry become safer,” quoted the Telegraph, wrote AOL Travel. Turner developed Aerotoxic Syndrome, which is a result, say experts, of so-called toxic “bleed air” that originates from aircraft engines and is recirculated in the cabins.

According to AOL Travel, some 200,000 airline passengers fall ill as a result of breathing in toxic cabin air, said Dr. Mackenzie Ross, a clinical neuropsychologist at University College London. A 2008 Telegraph investigation pointed to hundreds of incidents surrounding toxic air reports submitted by pilots in the United Kingdom, explained AOL Travel.

Captain John Hoyle, chairman of the Aerotoxic Association, a group created by former cabin crew in the UK that works to support syndrome sufferers said that this particular case is “significant win … We have known for a long time that if people breathe toxic oil fumes in the confines of a jet it can cause serious ill health,” quoted AOL Travel.

This past October, Southwest Airlines was hit with a personal injury lawsuit over toxic airplane air. Courthouse News Service said that the federal complaint was filed by twin sisters who claimed they and other passengers choked on toxic “super-heated” fumes that formed a “mist” in a Southwest airplane during flight.

The issue of toxic airplane air is a controversy that has dogged the airline industry for years. Last year, a joint investigation by German and Swiss TV networks claimed to have found high levels of a dangerous toxin on board several planes, including high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate contained in modern jet oil as an antiwear additive, which can lead to drowsiness, headaches, respiratory problems or neurological illnesses.

Critics claim the system used to re-circulate air in airplanes does not remove fumes or vapors from the engine. The process involves combining re-circulated existing cabin air with air bled off the engines, so-called “bleed air.” The air pulled into the engines is cooled and compressed before it is pumped into the cabin. If the system malfunctions, chemical contaminants can circulate through the airplane, creating a fume event.

The UK’s Committee on Toxicity said in 2007 that pilots reported such fume events in one percent of flights. The group also said that maintenance inspected and confirmed incidents in 0.05 percent of flights. According to the National Research Council, such fume events could occur on four out of every 1,000 flights.

One complaint involved a nasal discharge that was a neon green color, later. A neurologist determined that the flight attendant suffering from the discharge was a victim of toxic exposure. Other symptoms, according to a lawsuit filed against Boeing, owner of McDonnell Douglas, included migraine headaches, tremors, and blind spots.

A variety of lawsuits have been filed over issues connected to fume events that have led to chronic illnesses, lethargy, tremors, chronic headaches, numbness, rashes, ears ringing, vision problem, and other neurological symptoms.

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