Should airlines fit carbon monoxide monitors?

Ceri Roberts
Should airlines fit carbon monoxide monitors?
Should airlines fit carbon monoxide monitors?

A leading toxicologist has told the Daily Express that all airlines should fit carbon monoxide detectors, similar to those which we use in our homes, as standard.

Professor Chris van Netten, who is a world authority on bleed-air contamination, has accused airlines of putting profits before the health and safety of passengers and crew.

He says that these monitors could easily detect leaks of carbon monoxide, which is odorless, colourless and highly toxic. If inhaled by pilots it could render them incapable of flying the plane.

He explains: "Carbon monoxide is a relatively rare event but it's an acute one that can bring an aircraft down.

"When it happens you want to know what is going on because it is incapacitating and you want to be able to flush it out.

"If you can put detectors in the home, why not put them in the aircraft?"

Professor van Netten's warnings come amid new fears about the safety of cabin air. Two British airways pilots, Richard Westgate and Karen Lysakowska, recently died within a month of each other after complaining that they had been exposed to toxic fumes for years.

My Westgate's lawyers are still working to prove the existence of aerotoxic syndrome, a physical and mental condition which they believe could be the 'new asbestos'.

It is rare for passengers to be affected by aircraft fumes, but experts believe that pilots and crew are at greater risk.

This is due to the release of dangerous compounds found in jet engine oil, which can contaminate the cabin because of the way in which air is sucked through the engines and into a bleed pipe which enters the cabin unfiltered. At very high temperatures these fumes can include carbon monoxide, which can cause drowsiness and, at high levels, death.

The Mirror reports that records from the Civil Aviation Authority show that pilots and crew have to wear oxygen masks at least five times a week to combat these suspected 'fume events' and, according to one doctor, thousands of pilots are currently unfit to fly as a result.

However, British Airways insists that there is "no evidence" of excessive carbon monoxide levels on its planes, and The British Airline Pilots Association said that "fume events" were not its members big concern.

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