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Aircraft: Air Conditioning

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment has she made of the health implications for aircraft passengers and crew of air quality in commercial aircraft; and if she will make a statement. (161279)

We commissioned the independent Committee on Toxicity (COT) to evaluate evidence submitted by the British Air Lines Pilots Association (BALPA) in relation to cabin air “fume events”. The COT received extensive information from oil companies, airlines, engine manufacturers, independent scientific experts and campaign groups. The COT also reviewed previous studies of cabin air. The COT reported on 20 September 2007. The report is published on COT's website at www.advisorvbodies.doh.gov.uk/cotnonfood/index.htm where there is a mass of material.

The committee considered that it was not possible to conclude whether cabin air exposures (either general or following incidents) cause ill-health in commercial aircraft crews. It recommended further work, in particular and as a priority, to ascertain whether substances in the cabin environment during fume events could potentially be harmful to health. COT considered that this work should be designed to detect any potentially harmful substances, rather than focus on named substances.

In keeping with its commitment to promoting healthy flying, the Department for Transport accepts this priority. We have recently been testing equipment which may be capable of capturing substances released during fume incidents. Subject to the results of this testing, the Department hopes to begin a study later this year or early next year.