Smoking on domestic flights was outlawed 25 years ago. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Once upon a time there used to be smoking on flights. For those who don’t remember — it was disgusting. Even many smokers didn’t want to be stuck in a plane full of smoke swirling through recycled air. Thankfully, that all changed in 1990: Today marks the 25th Anniversary of smoke-free skies on domestic flights.
So yes, we are no longer breathing in deadly carcinogenic smoke. (Even e-cigarettes are banned by self-imposed airline rules.) But recently, a few high-profile cases have raised questions about whether the air on planes has the potential to be dangerously toxic.
In Dec. 2012, 43-year-old Richard Westgate —a British Airways pilot —died after suffering heath problems for years. He complained of headaches, mental confusion, and sight problems that he claimed were caused by constant exposure to toxic chemicals on the planes he flew.
Since his death, the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry published a study that revealed there was evidence Westgate had been over-exposed to jet-engine lubricants and chemicals: He had high levels of organophosphate poisoning his blood, and the presence of organophosphates is a direct result of such exposure.
Another BA pilot, Karen Lysakowska, died in 2012 after making the same claims.
Toxic fumes are commonplace in some airplane cockpits. (Photo: Thinkstock)
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), has been a part of the clean air fight for 30 years, and is still crusading for better air quality on aircrafts. Today, they’re pushing the airline industry to utilize filters to halt the circulation of contaminated air in plane cabins.
“Most Americans go to work with the expectation of breathing clean air,” said AFA International President Sara Nelson. “But until we achieve better standards for cabin air quality, flight attendants don’t have this guarantee.”
The union would also like to end the use of engine bleed air for cabin air supply.
Flight attendants spend countless hours in the airplane cabins, and the AFA believes that they, and all flyers, deserve to know that the air up there is contaminant-free. “Flight Attendants deserve clean air in their workspace, just as travelers deserve clean air when they travel,” Nelson said.
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