Aviation and Exposure to Toxic Chemicals 1999-01-5603
The use of jet-fuel, de-icing fluids, lubricants, hydraulics, engine oil and other fluids, are associated with single repeated/accidental or chronic exposure (s) to ground staff, flight-deck and cabin crew and passengers. These fluids can become airborne in vapor or aerosol phases, and are known to contain neurotoxicants, carcinogens, irritants and other toxic ingredients. Exposures (single or repeated) to these toxic materials are not rare events and some typical failures/working conditions include mechanical failures, seal leaks, and operational procedures, such as take off while fumes detected, pack burn outs.
A method for calculation of exposure dose is proposed. The additional impact of exposure to toxicants in conditions of lowered pressure (and reduced oxygen level), other potentiation factors are still largely unknown, but are not presumed to be beneficial.
These occupational and public exposures can impact on a range of issues, including: air safety; public liability; ground and air crew safety; control requirements on the supply/ handling/use/disposal of these products; and national and international regulations.
A number of toxicity studies report a consistent range of symptoms in exposed individuals (Rayman, 1983; Van Netten, 1998). Because flight safety can be compromised, due to significant symptoms such as disorientation, blurred vision, impaired memory, altered coordination and so on, attempts have been made to address these problems worldwide. These include changes in engine design, drainage, containment, retrofitting of engine filters, modified maintenance and operation and procedures and the like. Some of these changes were developed in past decades or are being currently worked-out while new technologies are being developed that enable significant reduction in concentrations of toxic airborne chemicals.
However, while the problem persists, exposure of staff and the public to levels of toxicants that may affect safety and health continues.