'Silent killer' fear on planes

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Pilot and Co-pilot in Cockpit
Pilot and Co-pilot in Cockpit

Airlines should monitor air quality during all flights over concerns about illnesses caused by being exposed to contaminated cabin air, a union has said.

Unite announced it had set up a helpline for its cabin crew members to report any incidents of so-called aerotoxic syndrome.

According to Press Association, the union is pressing for a public inquiry into the health effects of any "fume events" on airliners.

General secretary Len McCluskey said the union was campaigning to make sure aerotoxic syndrome did not become a "silent killer".

Official safety figures from the Civil Aviation Authority have revealed that pilots reported 167 cases of toxic cabin fumes or smoke in just four months.

The Daily Mail reports that one of the worst cases was in February which noted: "Fumes in cabin. Eleven of the cabin crew became unwell during flight, with symptoms of light-headedness, nausea and 'sea sickness'. Oxygen administered. Aircraft returned."

Some pilots and cabin crew say their health has been permanently damaged by the effects of polluted air.

The death of BA pilot Richard Westgate in 2012 raised questions. According to the Daily Express, the coroner believes the 43-year-old was poisoned due to repeated exposure to contaminated air, with his lawyers describing the toxic air as becoming "the new asbestos".

The Civil Aviation Authority says: "We take all safety issues very seriously. Whenever these incidents occur, the aircraft will generally be taken out of service and thoroughly inspected."

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