Aussie Pilot Says Airplane Air Bad for Health

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A former Australian pilot who worked with Qantas claims air travelers are "getting seriously sick" after breathing contaminated airplane air.

Susan Michaelis, a pilot who stopped flying due to medical reasons, tells AAP she became ill because of exposure to toxic fumes in airplane air.

"It's one of the biggest issues that the aviation industry has faced in a long time," says Michaelis, who has since completed a doctorate on the subject.

"It's about the air people breathe in aircraft and whether it's safe or not. If you are not breathing safe air, there's a very big problem," she adds.

Michaelis, who now runs an aviation consultancy, continues: "If you've been on an aircraft and smelled that funny odor it's recognized that's generally oil fumes. The passengers wouldn't know. You wouldn't know and if you were to get sick, it may not be related, but you wouldn't know."

She believes warning systems should be installed in airplane cockpits to detect fumes.

A spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) tells the news outlet most pilots do not see fume leaks as a common problem.

"The whole issue of toxic air in cabins is controversial. Some pilots believe it is a widespread problem, but the bulk of pilots don't believe that," says the spokesman.

However, as "one incident would be one too many," the group is encouraging the government to carry out research into cabin air quality.

Since 2006, seven incidents involving toxic fumes have been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK's aviation regulation agency, and another incident to Balpa.

There have been 270 engine oil incidents recorded by the CAA, where oil had leaked and fumes entered the cabin since air goes through the engine and into the cabin.

Last September, a former Australian flight attendant was awarded nearly $130,000 in damages after she suffered from long-term respiratory problems when she breathed smoke in the cabin of a flight from Sydney to Brisbane in 1992.

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