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Aircraft: Air Conditioning

Question for Department for Transport

UIN 8756, tabled on 4 September 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps his Department is taking to prevent toxic fumes from aircraft engines entering the cabin and causing crew and passengers to fall ill.

Answered on

9 September 2015

Following a recommendation in 2007 by the Committee on Toxicity (the COT) – an independent committee of toxicology experts – the Department commissioned a series of scientific studies as part of a research programme into cabin air. The principal research study, carried out by Cranfield University, was published in May 2011. In addition to the principal study, three further research studies were commissioned and published by the Department. The Department’s four published reports were formally submitted to the COT for consideration in June 2012. The COT considered the research reports, as well as other research published in the scientific literature since 2007, and subsequently published their position paper in December 2013 in which they concluded that further research was needed to properly understand the effects.

The Department does not plan to undertake any additional research on this issue and wrote to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) informing them of the four scientific studies commissioned by the Department. The limited number of incidences means that a larger data sample from more than just the UK would be beneficial. In addition, given that the same planes, engines and oils are used all round the world and across borders, an international approach to any future research investigations would now be more appropriate. EASA has launched in spring 2015 a preliminary in-flight cabin air measurement campaign, which will develop the methodology and put into place adequate equipment to perform cockpit and cabin air measurements. The results of this campaign, which will be used to prepare for an envisaged large scale project in the future, are expected in autumn 2016. The Department will follow the progress of this work with interest.

At a national level, the Aviation Health Unit as part of the Medical Department of the Civil Aviation Authority, will continue to monitor issues around cabin air as part of their wider role as the specialist adviser to the Government on aviation health issues.

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