Select Committee on Science and Technology First Report



As noted in paragraph 1.13 of this Report several submissions to this inquiry were not treated as evidence or printed. Instead they are summarised below. The full submissions are available for inspection by appointment at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7219 3074).


1.   A former BAe 146 pilot who wished to remain anonymous said that he was out of work due to ill health. He suffered from toxic encephalopathy and neuropathy including cognitive impairment and dysautonomia. He believed his ill health to be caused by years of daily low level exposure to neurotoxins such as organophosphates. A confidential medical report was enclosed.

2.   Captain Colin Barnett-Higgins had flown commercial aircraft for 32 years. During the later part of his career he became more and more fatigued until he could not complete his flight checks successfully. He underwent EEG (body) and MRI scans, blood tests and neuropsychometric examinations. The last test showed discrepancies between ability and performance and in 2000 he lost his license as a result. He noted that, although there were many fume events, nobody realised how dangerous they were and therefore most fume events were not reported in Air Safety Reports.

3.   Captain David Bowman flew his last jet aircraft in 2000 after a 42-year career. He continued working as a part-time instructor until 2003 when the CAA medical branch deemed him to be "long term unfit to exercise any privileges of his licence". Various specialists have diagnosed at different times fronto-temporal dementia, Pick's disease, Alzheimer's and Asperger's syndrome. Tests showed global atrophy of his brain and an executive function score of 18 percent. He felt that his brain functions had been diminished by exposure to organophosphates. Leakage of seals could contaminate aircraft air with synthetic ester based jet engine lubricants which usually contained organophosphates.

4.   Geoffrey Brundett, a retired mechanical engineer, expressed concerns at the lack of published data on the effects of cabin altitude. Together with colleagues he had measured actual cabin altitudes for 134 flights since 2001 and found two were above the 8,000 feet limit and 75 percent were under 7,000 feet. He stated that while blood oxygenation for healthy people aged 25 was good up to 7,000 feet, the oxygenation of a proportion of those aged 65 started to decline above 4,000 feet. He called for more research on this area.

5.   Jonathan Burdon wished to call the attention of the Committee to the effect of aircraft air quality on the health of air crew and passengers, and in particular to the respiratory disorders which he had observed as a consultant respiratory physician. To his mind there was no doubt that some air crew experienced lung injury which in some cases was very subtle and only detected through sophisticated lung function testing. He listed a number of publications which outlined these disorders.

6.   Captain Yvonne Burford had suffered ill health through contaminated air while flying a BAe 146. Since ceasing to fly her health had improved but she still suffered from unexplained headaches which she did not have before flying. She did not believe the Government would allow BAe to be convicted of poisoning aircrew and passengers.

7.   Mr Alan Carter flew for 30 years as an airline pilot, including 7,000 flying hours on the BAe 146. At times, during his early morning pre-flight checks, the aircraft cabin would fill with an electric blue haze after starting the auxiliary power unit; this would clear after 10 minutes. He felt that BAe 146 was well known for these problems but that no one thought much of it as it was a common occurrence. In 1998 he felt unwell after a flight with constant flu-like symptoms, fatigue, headaches, nausea and ears ringing. He stopped flying in April 1999. By October he went voluntarily to a private psychiatric hospital for six weeks where he was diagnosed with depression. He did not agree with the diagnosis. In 2004 he underwent nerve conductivity tests which confirmed damage to his nerve system and peripheral neuropathy. He believed his illness was due to organophosphate poisoning.

8.   Mr Ray Cockerton was a prematurely retired Boeing 757 pilot. He suffered from poor memory, word-finding difficulties, periods of mild confusion, persistent respiratory infections, chronic fatigue, double vision and tingling fingers. He was invited to take part in the UCL study to examine cognitive function in 27 pilots. Tests showed that large amounts of heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, cadmium, tin, tungsten and nickel) and traces of lindain and nitrosamine were present in his blood. Also, traces of organophosphates were detected in his fat cells. Serum tests revealed that he had acute brain damage and deterioration of the nerve fibres in the extremities consistent with chemical induced nervous injury. The cognitive problems were permanent but the chronic fatigue was getting better. His solicitor was currently pursuing a case of personal injury against his previous employer. He believed that the consistent low levels of air contamination, cumulative over a period of time, had caused his health problems. He was angry that nobody told pilots of the risks associated with flying the 757.

9.   In 1998 Mr Andrew Gibbs began to fly the BAe 146. He noticed that the aircraft was quite smelly, particularly in the mornings, but this was regarded as normal. After 18 months he became ill suffering from a sore throat, headaches, aching joints, constant fatigue, muscular weakness, hot/cold flushes, light-headedness and poor short-term memory. Whilst recovering at home his symptoms would diminish but on returning to work he would suffer a relapse. He was dismissed from his employment in late 2000 after only 1,300 flying hours. In 2005 he started flying pressurised aircraft again but after only 100 flying hours he experiences an in-flight malfunction of the cabin air system and the cabin became filled with visible fumes. His ill health returned subsequently and he was still unwell after more than a year. He believed that exposure to poisoned cabin air was the cause of his ill health. At no time was he warned by his employer, BAe or the CAA that the BAe 146 was a high risk type of aircraft.

10.   Mr Raymond Godfrey started flying in 1952. From 1987 to 1999 he flew the BAe 146. He recollected mist in the cabin on every flight, more particularly when starting up on the first flight of the day. In 2005 he was referred to a neurological consultant and in July 2006 he was diagnosed with Bulbar motor neuron disease. He believed his condition was a direct result of being in an atmosphere that was contaminated with organophosphates.

11.   Mr David Hall flew from 1960 to 1992 as an airline pilot, the last two years of which were on a BAe 146. This aircraft had a continual and distinctive smell resembling dirty wet socks being dried on a radiator, a smell which persisted long after the flight was over. Also, he found operating the BAe 146 excessively tiring. He retired in 1992 and in 1997 he has diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Tests in 2004 revealed that his lung function was some 25 percent of that predicted for his age. In 2005 he had a blood sample analysed and the results were consistent with chemical-induced nervous system injury.

12.   Professor Malcolm Hooper sent the Committee a copy of his report entitled "Aerotoxic Syndrome" which he presented at the launch of the Cabin Air Association.

13.   Mr John Hoyte flew the BAe 146 from 1989 to 2005. He was constantly aware of fumes, sometimes visible, which lasted approximately 10 minutes. These fumes were more common on the first flight of the day. He experienced progressive ill health, suffering from poor memory, speech difficulties, internal head pressure, chronic fatigue and character change—all of which he believed led to mild depression. In 2004 he was grounded by the CAA and diagnosed with operational stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. In February 2006 Professor Bagshaw officially diagnosed him with chronic stress, which enabled him to get a loss of licence payment. During 2006 he took part in the UCL study programme, which involved testing of blood and tissue. He was very angry at losing his job, income and health. He had started an association to help others who believed that they might have been affected by contaminated air.

14.   Mr John Kendall, a 49 year old Training Captain with Thompson, flew the 757 and 767 aircraft. He experienced contaminated air events and suffered light-headedness, nausea and short term memory loss. He believed he had recovered from his symptoms but he no longer had the stamina that he used to have. He was extremely concerned for his long term health.

15.   Mr Leonard Lawrence sent a copy of a letter describing the results of medical tests.

16.   Ms Lucy Mayorga said that on 10 August 2005 she experienced exposure to organophosphates on an Airbus 329 while working as a flight attendant. Due to the side effects of that incident she suffered from memory problems, depression, anxiety attacks, body aches and chronic fatigue. She had become physically crippled and no one seemed to want to take responsibility.

17.   In 2001, at the age of 51, Mr Trevor Mercer had to stop flying due to ill health. He was diagnosed as possibly suffering from depression, then epilepsy and lastly Alzheimer's disease. However, after further investigations, it had been confirmed that all his problems were consistent with exposure to polluted fumes.

18.   Ms Tracey Morey was a former flight attendant who was exposed to contaminated air while working. Although the flight was very short she experienced a headache and nausea. On the return sector she became increasingly nauseous, her hands and face were numb, her heart was racing and the headache returned. After this incident she was off work for six weeks. It took seven years for a tribunal finally to rule in her favour that she had in fact been exposed to a toxic substance.

19.   Mr Michael Perdios was diagnosed with left remoralpopliteal DVT following a flight to Cyprus in 1999. He spent five days in hospital receiving treatment with Warfarin and undergoing tests. After receiving permission from doctors to fly back to London he did so on 15 October. He was due to consult his GP four days later but he collapsed at home and died. His wife told us that a post mortem revealed the cause of death was subarachnoid haemorrhage and ruptured cerebral aneurysm.

20.   Captain David Phillips flew the Boeing 757 for approximately 10 years. During this time he had frequent occurrences of a strong oily wet sock smell just after take off. He was told that this was caused by engineers overfilling the engine oil level overnight. He suffered a number of symptoms such as mouth ulcers, throat irritation, non-migraineous headaches and tremors. His flying licence was suspended temporarily in 1994 and he was finally declared as medically unfit in May 1998. He now suffered from Parkinson's disease.

21.   Mr Andy Queen flew the BAe 146 for 8 years. Normally there would be fumes in the cabin first thing in the morning from the air conditioning system. There were constant smells in the cabin which included wet dog, sweaty socks, and rotten cheese. At times other intermittent smells were present such as oily fumes, exhaust fumes, burning paper and rubber. Mr Queen suffered from acute symptoms such as oily exposed skin, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dry eyes and throat, lack of concentration, tingling limbs and headaches, which would subside within an hour or two after leaving the aircraft. He also suffered chronic symptoms such as hoarseness of voice, memory loss, tremors, emotional changes, lethargy and numbness in three toes. Exhaustive medical testing showed damage consistent with chemical exposure. He had taken swab samples from furnishings and air vents on the flight decks of various BAe 146 aircraft, all of which have tested positive for TCP.

22.   Mrs Samantha Sabatino and her family flew from London to Florida in February 2007. During the flight some 40 passengers became ill, including herself and three members of her family. Upon arrival to Florida she was hospitalised suffering from wheezing and crackles in her chest. No infection or viruses were found either in Florida or upon her return home. Her family were still experiencing ill health including violent nausea, tummy cramps, blisters on arms and hands, chest pain, severe headaches, vertigo, insomnia and loss of balance. She had complained to the carrier, XL Airways, who had denied that other passengers had complained of ill health. The Environmental Health Department have not carried out an investigation into the issue. She received unsatisfactory replies from the Health Protection Agency, the CAA and the Air Transport Users Council. She complained of being swept aside and questioned the effectiveness of these organisations.

23.   Captain Julian Soddy felt the aircrew community had been let down by the various government-funded research committees. He was a retired airline captain who flew the BAe 146 for 5 years and had been grounded by the CAA due to ill health. He had undergone a series of medical and neurological tests with a diagnosis as having been affected by organophosphate or chemical induced symptoms. He believed there was sufficient evidence to ask the oil manufacturers to exclude dangerous chemicals.

24.   Dr Moira Somers was a medical practitioner registered with the West Australian Medical Board. Since 1999 she had seen 39 flight crew who had reported exposure to contaminated cabin air while on the BAE 146 and other aircraft. In 2005 she reviewed all of the consultations and produced a paper titled "A General Practitioner's Experience with Cabin Air Problems".

25.   Captain Jonathan Tribe had been a qualified pilot for 26 years, for the last 19 of which he had been employed by one large UK charter airline. In this capacity he had predominantly flown the Boeing 757 and 767. Over his career he had been aware of repeated exposure to engine oil fumes and has often reported it to his employer and the CAA. On 29 February 2002 while flying the B757, the left engine suffered technical failure that allowed large quantities of pyrolysed engine oil to enter the air conditioning system. Within weeks he developed a skin rash on his tongue and acute sensitivity, severe digestive symptoms, fatigue and cognitive deterioration. In 2006 he underwent blood and fat tests as well as a cognitive function test that showed impairment. He was still a full time airline pilot and confirmed that he was still exposed to engine oil fumes on a regular basis. He had written to the CAA and his employer on this issue but neither party recognised this as a health or flight safety issue.

26.   Ms Joanne Turner worked in aviation for 22 years in Australia. During this time she was exposed to oil leaking into the air supply of the aircraft. In March 2000 she had her lungs washed out because of exposure to a fume event. She now had a medical condition called Reactive Airways disease.

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