Untimely deaths of former pilots increases scrutiny over toxic air aboard British Airways jets

british-airways-toxic-air-onboardIn the last month, two former British Airways pilots were laid to rest and at least one of them believes their untimely deaths were the result of breathing toxic air inside the cabin of the jets for years.

According to a Sunday Express report, as former pilot Richard Westgate was dying, he instructed his attorney to sue his former employer, British Airways, for the years he suffered breathing the toxic air in the cabins of the company’s planes. Both Westgate and fellow former pilot Karen Lysakowska were 43 when they died. The only connection between the two, other than the untimeliness of their deaths, is that both were pilots aboard British Airways jets.

The report from the U.K. indicates that an attorney representing Westgate plan to show that British Airways failed to monitor the quality of its air aboard its fleet of jets. The condition has worsened to the point that many pilots are forced to wear masks while they’re flying planes to avoid breathing in too much air. The attorney contends that British Airways is liable under the country’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations and that it breached health and safety guidelines by forcing British Airways pilots and staff to breathe the toxic air aboard the jets.

The report also cites data from the country’s Civil Aviation Authority that shows oxygen masks are being used more regularly, up to five times a week, aboard flights by pilots and crew members during so-called “fume events.”

Toxic airplane air is not just a suspected problem aboard British Airways jets. In the U.S., more passengers, airplane crews, and pilots are reporting increased rates of headaches and breathing difficulties after they’ve taken a flight. Increased exposure to this toxic airplane air is being called Aerotoxic Syndrome by some and the “disease” is gaining legitimate traction as more people who board planes regularly report these same side effects.

The air inside a plane’s cabin can become poisonous when oil leaks aboard the plane burn fumes directly into the cabin. These fumes accumulate in the trapped and circulated air inside a plane’s cabin. Cabin air is also comprised of compressed air generated by the engines and this “bleed air” is blended with air already in the cabin. Some believe the system used to properly re-circulate the air through a plane’s cabin is dysfunctional and this often leads to “fume events” aboard a plane.

Symptoms of breathing this toxic air may only be temporary for many passengers, constant or prolonged exposure could have neurological effects.

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