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New Research May Prove BA Pilot Died From Toxic Fumes In The Cockpit

July 30, 2014 - For years airline pilots have complained of health effects related to exposure to toxic cockpit cab air. This toxic air or fumes they believed came from leaking of or burning jet fuel and engine oil. This became know as Aerotoxic syndrome, although not a medically recognized syndrome. 

Synthetic oils are used for lubrication in jet engines, these oils contain tricresyl phosphate (TCP), an organophosphate which the CDC has listed as toxic and has been linked to neurobehavioral development of fetuses and children and exposure in large amounts can be deadly. 

Recognizing the need, aircraft and jet engine manufactures have installed environmental control systems (ECS) within the aircraft to control cabin pressurization, cooling of avionics, fire suppression and supplied air. 


The supplied air to the cockpit and the rest of the aircraft comes from filtered recirculated air and from outside air via compressed engine bleed air. This is where the potential for the deadly fumes such as oil, jet fuel, de-icing fluids, smoke, etc. to enter the aircraft air supply. Government and industry studies have been done which indicate cockpit and aircraft air supply contamination is negligible. 

In 2007, The Aerotoxic Association was set up in the UK to raise awareness of the effects of contaminated cabin air and show that the bleed air fed into the aircraft cabin can be contaminated by organophosphate compounds leading to occupational health conditions (neurotoxic poisoning). 

Richard Westgate, of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland was a British Airways pilot that had suffered chronic medical conditions (impaired memory, concentration, insomnia, sight problems, delayed reaction times, etc.) in which he believed was related to toxic fumes seeping into the air supply in cockpit. In March 2012, Westgate contacted Aerotoxic Association to inform the association of his condition and express his concerns.



Michael Bagshaw, who was previously with British Airways as Head of Health Services and currently a health consultant to Airbus Industries said “Concerns have been raised by unions representing pilots and cabin crew about the possible effects on aircrew health of oil/hydraulic fluid smoke/fume contamination incidents in pressurized aircraft. Specific concerns have been raised with respect to organophosphate compounds (OPs) in the cabin air environment and the effects on health of long term low-level exposure. However, the epidemiological evidence is hampered by inconsistency in reporting and the numbers are small”.  
  Toxic Airlines Bagshaw Gets Challenged Aerotoxic syndrome

Westgate contacted a lawyer, Frank Cannon to file a lawsuit against British Airways for health and safety breaches to its employees, believing he was exposed to and being poisoned by toxic chemicals onboard the aircraft he flew. Westgate, 43, died on December 12, 2012, attorney Cannon said “We believe that constant exposure to fuel leaks in planes contributed to Richard's death”.

It appears that through scientific research and taking into account Westgate’s medical conditions that there is compelling evidence that exposure to cockpit air contaminated with hazardous organophosphates caused Westgate’s death. The new finding has just been published in the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry. Aerotoxic Association president, Pilot John Hoyte said “Countless air crew and passengers are suffering, but this scientific report finally gives us the recognition that exposure to toxins from oil fumes can cause serious illness.”

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