Toxic Cabin Air Can Make You Sick


Toxic Cabin Air Can Make You Sick


Remember, you have a limited amount of time to fill out a Workers’ Compensation claim after being exposed to a toxic fume event.
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Cabin air contamination onboard aircraft on commercial flights has become increasingly common in recent years.


Protect Your Job and Your Health


If you experience sickness due to a cabin air fume event, note the following in your report:

  • Flight number and tail number of aircraft
  • Departure and landing location • Approximate time of incident
  • Length of the incident
  • Maintenance records on the aircraft — was there any malfunction or problems with the bleed air system?


When you see the Doctor, it is important that you tell him/her what happened on the aircraft and the following:

  • Any odors/smells, or visible mist?
  • When did you first start having symptoms?
  • What immediate symptoms did you have, i.e. headache, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • What symptoms you still have. While many cabin crew members get better in a few days, you may experience symptoms that can last for weeks or months.


While there are still no specific routine tests for the chemicals in bleed air, there are some tests that can be done by your doctor that can help diagnosis and guide treatment. Make sure you ask for an arterial blood gas test.

These “fume events” refer to a potentially toxic environment created by contaminated bleed air used to pressurize and ventilate aircraft cockpit and cabins, and are accompanied by reports of abnormal odors, smoke, haze or fumes in the cabin.

Bleed air contamination is not the only cause of fume events or medical symptoms among passengers and crew. Reduced oxygen levels, ozone, de-icing fluids, insecticides, fuel vapor, and fumes from ground service vehicles or other aircraft may also be responsible.

Respiratory symptoms appear to be the most common initial symptoms following air quality incidents. Although they often resolve quickly, irritant-induced asthma may persist for more than 3 months following the exposure episode.

Neurological and psychiatric symptoms may in some cases be more persistent. These include headaches, confusion, loss of balance, lightheadedness, muscle weakness, movement disorders, numbness, cognitive dysfunction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, sleep and anxiety disorders.


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