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Nerve poison on the plane: how dangerous is flying really?

Nerve poison in aircraft? Unbelievable, but the resulting aerotoxic syndrome is not a new problem for airlines.

Nerve toxins in the cockpit? Airlines are silent about the problem.
Photo: Thinkstock

There are always incidents because the air in the aircraft is toxic. Airlines are not responding to the problem of neurotoxin on the plane in public.

Dizziness, nausea and loss of mental ability - many pilots and stewardesses complain about these problems. But not only professional pilots are affected, also passengers can suffer from these problems. A possible explanation for this: neurotoxin in the cabin and in the cockpit.

How does nerve poison get on the plane?

Almost all airplanes draw their fresh air from a dispenser near the engine. If a seal on the engine is broken, the substance tricresyl phosphate (TCP), which is mixed with aircraft engine oil, evaporate and thus gets into the supposed fresh air of the cabin.

An earlier article by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that people who come in contact with or inhale TCP may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and tingling in the body. In high recurrent doses, the nerve poison should also be able to cause death.

The aerotoxic syndrome

The so-called aerotoxic syndrome is a relatively unexplored disease. Although the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt records cases of the syndrome, it does not publish them. In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority has recorded 1050 such incidents in 2006. The most common types of poisoning were the Boeing 757 and 233 and the BAe 146, the most affected aircraft types.

In people who rarely fly, the contaminated air in the cabin is not permanently damaging to health. For pilots and stewardesses, the damage to health can be more serious . However, the aerotoxic syndrome does not always have to be responsible if a passenger is not feeling well. There can be various reasons for this. In addition, researchers have so far not been able to clearly detect TCP in the body. Thus, some pilot deaths can not be traced back to TCP.

How can I protect myself?

Generally - not only for health reasons - you fly as rarely as possible. Not only does this keep CO2 consumption low, it also does not put you off the nerve agent TCP . If you have to fly, poisoning by TCP is very unlikely. Other dangers - such as thrombosis - are much greater threats to long-haul flights.

Newer types of aircraft such as the Boeing 787 no longer draw their fresh air from near the turbines. Here comes the air in the cabin from the fuselage area of ​​the aircraft.

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