Boeing Reaches Settlement with Flight Attendant in Toxic Airplane Air Lawsuit

Boeing Co. has agreed to the first settlement in a U.S. lawsuit over <"">toxic airplane cabin air. According to a report from MSNBC, Boeing’s confidential settlement with Terry Williams, a former flight attendant, will most certainly fuel the long-running battle over the safety of cabin air in commercial jetliners.

Williams, 42, alleged that she was sickened on April 11, 2007 by toxic smoke and oil fumes that leaked into an MD-82 aircraft cabin as American Airlines Flight 843 taxied to the gate in Dallas. According to her lawsuit, Williams was left with a chronic headache, memory loss, recurrent tremors, disabling coughing spasms, asthma, sore throat, fatigue, nausea, speech impairment, loss of balance, vision impairment, and numbness and tingling in her hands, arms, shoulders and feet.

“When I used to make French toast for my family, first I’d make the bread,” Williams, a mother of two, told MSNBC. “Now I can’t even remember the recipe.”

Workers compensation doctors in San Francisco diagnosed Williams with neurotoxic disorder due to exposure to the fumes, MSNBC said.

Williams’ lawsuit claimed Boeing and its McDonnell Douglas subsidiary knew the plane and its bleed-air system were defective and did nothing to protect Williams or other passengers and crew members. In the course of the case, Boeing turned over 250,000 pages of documents from 1954 and 1955 that showed the company was aware of cabin air contamination and had sought detection and filtration systems to combat the problem, MSNBC said. Other documents indicated company executives were worried about the health hazards posed by toxic cabin air.

Boeing’ settlement with Willaims is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. by an aircraft manufacturer.

Kelly Skyles, national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines flight attendants, told MSNBC that the Association is hoping the Williams’’ settlement will spur safety improvements.

“Crews are locked up with passengers in a working environment,” she said. “Anything we’re at risk of, they’re at risk of.”

Despite the settlement, Boeing continues to maintain that breaches like the one described in Williams’ lawsuit are extremely rare and that short-term exposure to the tiny amounts of toxic substances poses no health risk. However, experts say that out of 28,000 commercial flights per day, at least one will be affected by toxic fumes.

According to a report from the U.K. Daily Mail, Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers have relied on bleed-air systems since the early 1950s. However, Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner instead has an air circulation system that uses electric compressors.

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