The TWU launched the first stages of its latest campaign, fighting for the safety of aviation workers and the flying public.
The International created a committee consisting of members from the Air and Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Divisions, along with industry experts. As usual, the TWU is leading the charge with our Toxic Cabin Air campaign, calling on the FAA to monitor cabin air for toxic fumes.
The first component of the campaign is to educate TWU membership, which was underway as this issue went to press.
What Are ‘Toxic Fumes’?
In recent weeks, there have been several stories in the news about diverted aircraft from all airline carriers in the US and abroad because “toxic fumes.” These fumes cause serious health concerns and are not monitored at all onboard aircraft.
For example, eight passengers on a flight this spring were hospitalized after a toxic fume incident while waiting to take off.
Passengers are often unaware that the air they breathe on board is circulated through a “bleed air system.” This system heats outside air over the engines – allowing toxic fumes to potentially seep into the cabin air.
The aviation industry often denies the threat of these chemicals, claiming that aircraft have been designed this way for years. The science, however, is clear on this issue. Engine oil, hydraulic fuel, and other aircraft fluids, when gasified, become potent nerve agents that can cause brain damage, cancer, and loss of motor function.
These nerve agents can be absorbed through inhalation and through the skin. Repeated or prolonged exposure to these – such as the daily exposure flight attendants endure – may result in the same effects as acute exposure. Some TWU members have become completely disabled from exposure to these chemicals.
These fumes can smell like dirty socks or other everyday items – often causing people to ignore this life-threatening issue. Frequent flyers and other passengers may mistake the symptoms of toxic fume exposure for jetlag. In fact, travelers are at equal risk to the negative health effects from these fumes.
Federal legislation has recently been introduced in the U.S. Congress to address this issue. The Cabin Air Safety Act, sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), would help set our cabin air on a path to being healthy and safe. TWU fully endorses this important bill as a first step to ensuring our cabin air is healthy and safe.
What You Can Do
If you believe you’ve been exposed to toxic fumes, fill out this webform.
On the Toxic Fumes webpage, you can also find resources on how to fill out a Workers’ Compensation claim, if you’ve been exposed to toxic fumes, depending on your state; download a palm card; and view your HIPAA rights.
Visit that same page for the latest campaign updates and how you can get involved.