by aubrey cohan, seattle PI blog
Two former flight attendants are suing Airbus, alleging that toxic “bleed air” from aircraft engines caused serious permanent injuries.
According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Broward County, Fla.:
Lucy Mayorga and Adriana Moravcik of New York suffered inhalation injuries on Oct. 8, 2005, aboard a U.S. Airways Airbus A319-112 aircraft. Upon takeoff, they noticed a strange chemical smell, followed by their eyes watering, their throats tightening and debilitating symptoms, including headache, upper respiratory irritation and difficulty breathing.
They were later diagnosed with breathing injuries, and their symptoms continued to worsen until they had to give up their jobs.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that defective design allows toxic chemicals from engine oil and hydraulic lubrication products to contaminate air drawn in to the cabin through the engines.
“The problem of toxic ‘bleed air’ on airplanes has been known to the airline industry since the 1950s,” Alisa Brodkowitz, a Seattle lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in a news release. “The aircraft manufacturers have turned a blind eye to this problem and failed to equip their planes with sensors or filters to keep toxic chemicals out of the cabin. The only things filtering this stuff out of the cabin are the lungs of passengers and crew members.”
Brodkowitz also represents Former flight attendant Terry Williams, who sued plane maker Boeing and subsidiary McDonnell Douglas this summer, alleging that bleed air fumes sickened her aboard an American Airlines MD-82 airliner in 2007, eventually causing symptoms so intense that she could no longer work.
In August, CNN reported that a team at the University of Washington was finalizing a blood test to confirm whether 92 people who suspect they’ve been poisoned by toxic fumes in airplanes actually were.
A 2002 National Research Council report (free summary) said:
Problems arise when engine lubricating oils, hydraulic fluids, or deicing fluids unintentionally enter the cabin through the air-supply system from the engines in what is called bleed air. Many cabin crews and passengers have reported incidents of smoke or odors in the cabin. No exposure data are available to identify the contaminants in cabin air during air-quality incidents, but laboratory studies suggest that many compounds are released when the fluids mentioned above are heated to the high temperatures that occur in the bleed-air system.
The 787 Dreamliner will not use bleed air in the cabin — because of fuel efficiency, not health concerns, according to Boeing.