Monday, 17 July 2017

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By Valerie Burke

Did you know that the air you breathe on a commercial airliner comes directly from the engine, complete with engine oil, lubricants and hydraulic fluid? A new study confirms the link between contaminated cabin air and aerotoxic syndrome. Learn what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

If you don’t feel well after air travel, it might be more than simple jet lag. From the parking garage to the baggage carousel, your body undergoes a fusillade of toxic assaults. You may eat toxic food, drink toxic water, and touch contaminated surfaces—and then your body is bombarded by body scanners, Wi-Fi and cosmic radiation.

On top of all that, the air in the airplane is toxic.

For six decades, the airline industry has turned a blind eye to the adverse health effects of contaminated cabin air. Since warm air is needed for both engine propulsion and human respiration, aircraft manufacturers decided decades ago to combine the two by bringing air through the engine to heat it, then bleeding it directly into the cabin—unfiltered. This air brings with it a toxic mix of engine oil, lubricants, and various hydrocarbons. As noted by US Attorney Alisa Brodkowitz, the only air filters are the lungs of passengers and crew.

Modern aircraft have no chemical sensors—save for the noses of the humans onboard. Background levels of contamination are typically not detectable by smell, and only visible smoke is officially reported in flight logs.

Engine oils leak into the air supply, by design. Their chemical signature is regularly found in aircraft cabins and cockpits. Repeated exposures have created a new occupational disease called “aerotoxic syndrome” (aerotoxicosis) suffered by pilots, flight attendants and other crew—and unfortunately, some passengers as well. Extensive evidence confirms that frequent exposures are occurring, and health and flight safety are being compromised.

The role bleed air plays in the reported illnesses has been the subject of much debate, but a study recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO) provides solid evidence that contaminated cabin air is making people sick. The study took an in-depth look at the effects of “contaminated air events” on the health of aircrew to determine whether reported symptoms are consistent with exposure to pyrolysed (decomposed due to heating) jet engine oil and other fluids, or if the symptoms could be attributed to other factors. Researchers concluded the following:[i]

A clear cause and effect relationship has been identified linking the symptoms, diagnoses and findings to the occupational environment. Recognition of this new occupational disorder and a clear medical investigation protocol are urgently needed.

A Flying “Gas Chamber”

Exposure to extreme temperatures produces a wide range of toxic compounds. Cabin air has been found tainted with petrochemicals, carbon monoxide, ozone, formaldehyde, deicing agents, hydraulic fluid—and even fecal matter and pesticides.[ii]

All aircraft engines leak oil. Jet engines require synthetic oils for lubrication, and these oils contain chemicals such as tricresyl phosphate (TCP) and tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (TOCP). TCP and TOCP are organophosphates with known neurotoxic effects—they’re in the same category as sarin gas. TOCP and other noxious agents are colorless and odorless—so you don’t know you’re inhaling them, which makes them all the more dangerous.[iii] According to the WHO study:

Transient, low-level oil leakage over the engine oil seals into the aircraft air supply occurs during normal flight operations, with less frequent, higher level leakage under certain operational conditions (e.g. seal wear or seal failure). The use of pressurized air from the engine compressor to both seal the oil-bearing chamber and supply cabin bleed air provides a mechanism for low-level oil leakage in routine engine operations. While many experts have suggested that oil leakage is associated only with rare failure events, others now recognize that chronic exposure is caused by the so-called tiny amounts of oil vapors released by oil leaking continuously over the seals during engine power changes.

Most medical practitioners are unaware of the aerotoxicosis phenomenon. Sufferers are misdiagnosed with a variety of other illnesses that miss the root of the problem and result in inappropriate treatments. The prime suspect for aerotoxic syndrome is TCP, which is found in 25 to 100 percent of in-flight air samples.[iv] TBP (tributyl phosphates) are found in 73 percent of flights, and triphenyl phosphate metabolites have been found in 100 percent of urine samples.

It is believed the primary effects of TCP come from its disruptions of acetylcholine metabolism. Acetylcholine is a natural neurotransmitter found in your central and peripheral nervous system. Neurotransmitters normally have a short half-life because they are rapidly degraded by enzymes, preventing their build-up. When organophosphates in bleed air poison the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, the resulting increase in acetylcholine overstimulates acetylcholine receptors, giving rise to central and peripheral nervous system symptoms.

High TCP exposure is known to cause neuropathy, paralysis, and damage to myelin sheaths, similar to what happens with multiple sclerosis. Symptoms can present immediately or be delayed as long as two weeks, with their severity depending on factors such as one’s overall health and ability to detox. Symptoms seem to be triggered by higher-dose episodes (sometimes referred to as “fume events”), as well as lower-dose exposures associated with routine air travel.

The relationship between toxic inhalants and reported symptoms has been difficult to establish for a number of reasons. One is that no accepted international protocol exists for the medical investigation of crew and passengers after an air quality incident (aka “fume event”). Another problem is that toxicants cause a wide range of diffuse, nonspecific symptoms that are hard to connect to exposure, made even more challenging if the effects are delayed.

A person’s symptomatic response to contaminated bleed air varies based on many factors such as levels and types of chemicals present, previous exposure history, genetics, age, medical conditions and others. Many aerotoxicity victims describe feeling like “zombies” or perpetually intoxicated. Chronic effects are common. The ten most common health effects noted in this study are the following (the list includes both acute and chronic):...

Read more: Green Med Info


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