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Coroner Warns Airlines About Cabin Air Quality

February 24, 2015
Public Health

aircraft cabinA coroner has warned major airlines that fumes in cabin air could pose a serious risk to health. Stanhope Payne, the senior coroner for Dorset, made the statement whilst inquiring into the death of British Airways pilot Richard Westgate. Mr Westgate died in 2012 after claiming he had been subject to so-called ‘aerotoxic syndrome’. It is common practice for commercial passenger planes to use compressed air from the engines to pressurise the cabin. In some cases, this process has failed, leading to excess oil particles entering the air supply. In the confined space of an airline cabin, the effect on frequent fliers and air crew can be harmful, the coroner said.

Frank Cannon, a lawyer on the Westgate case, believes that poor air quality has been a problem for many years. He told the Daily Telegraph: “This report is dynamite. It is the first time a British coroner has come to the conclusion that damage is being done by cabin air, something the industry has been denying for years.”

Mr Stanhope has demanded that British Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) respond to his report, which was made under regulation 28 of the Coroners’ Investigation Regulations 2013, within eight weeks, setting out the actions they propose to take to address the issue. Information from the CAA shows that oxygen masks are being used as frequently as five times a week by pilots and crew in response to what they term ‘fume events’.