Several former and serving cabin crew are planning legal action against British airlines, claiming they have been poisoned by contaminated air. Reports submitted to the air safety watchdog here in the U. show that there are hundreds of so-called fume events each year - where engine oil and other toxic chemicals may have leaked from the engines into the plane itself. The industry, though, says there is no scientific evidence of any danger to public health.
Watch this BBC video and say whether the statements below are true or false.
The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.
1 Three quarters of the air you breathe in most modern commercial jets is recycled.
2 In general, breathing recycled air is not a problem.
3 Since April last year there have been 271 reports of fumes on flights operated by British Airlines.
4 In some of the incidents, pilots were considered unfit to fly.
5 Dee Parsons thought her health problems had to do with the fact that she was getting older.
6 The Unite Union -which represents cabin crew- is preparing 70 cases against airlines in the civil
7 Breathing normal cabin air is safer on a plane than at home.
Around half the air you breathe in most modern commercial jets is recycled, it just goes round and round and round the cabin. The other half, though, is drawn through here, the engines. Now normally that’s not a problem. If there’s a fault in the seal of these engines, that’s where some people think engine oil and other toxic fumes could be sucked up from here into the cabin itself.
Airlines say fume events are very rare, but we have obtained full safety reports submitted to the regulator, the CAA. Since April last year there have been 251 reports of fumes on flights operated by British Airlines. In 104 of those cases an illness was reported. Oxygen was given on at least 28 of those flights. The detailed logs which should not be made public until now show some pilots were made so sick they couldn’t operate. On other flights, every crew member was sent to hospital.
April 13 2015. Airbus A320, Heathrow. Oily smell in the cockpit intensified post landing. At A&E crew reported feeling ‘things felt unreal and slightly confusing.’ Both pilots were considered unfit to operate.
February 29 2015, Boeing 747. Fumes in the cabin. During the cruise, the senior crew manager informed the captain that nine cabin crew were now reporting similar symptoms. These consisted of dizziness, nausea and headaches. One cabin crew member collapsed and was administered first aid and oxygen.
Former stewardess Dee Parsons was made redundant after a long sickness she blames on contaminated air.
You think it’s jet lag or it’s just getting older and you don’t realise actually until your body completely breaks down and grinds to a halt. You don’t realise that you’re ill. You just keep putting it down to other things.
Campaigners are now waiting for the outcome of two high-profile inquests. Richard Westgate and Matthew Bass both worked for British Airways, both died after long illnesses which their families blame on toxic fumes.
The Unite Union which represents cabin crew is open to dedicating legal units and is preparing 17 more cases against airlines in the civil courts. Plane makers and airlines themselves say there is no proof of any long-term health effects from breathing cabin air. In 2013 a group of independent scientist reviewed the evidence from the Department of Transport.
The levels were often as low or even lower than those in the home or the workplace. This is in normal flight. Of course we can’t be sure what the levels are in the so-called fume events which are very rare.
The lawyers working in this area are now comparing toxic air to other industrial health scares.
If you look at the tobacco industry, the asbestos, contaminated blood issues, if you look at all that governments say it’s perfectly safe, perfectly safe and then, pam!, suddenly they have to admit they got it wrong for so many years. So that’s what’s going to happen again with air toxic, no doubt about it.
Is the air we breathe at 30,000 feet a genuine threat to staff and plane passengers. That’s likely to be decided one way or another in our courts in the months and years to come.
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