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Deceased Pilots Claimed Aerotoxic Syndrome

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The death of two former British Airways pilots, both 43 years of age, who both believed they were poisoned by breathing contaminated air in the cockpit of jets they flew may now lead to legal action. Shortly before his Dec. 12 death, pilot Richard Westgate reportedly instructed his lawyers to sue BA over his alleged poisoning. Pilot Karen Lysakowska was grounded with poor health in 2005 and developed lung cancer, passing away a few days after Westgate. Lawyers for Westgate are now pushing for an inquest into the pilot's death to prove the existence of "aerotoxic syndrome."

In 2007 a collection of flight crew members founded the Aerotoxic Association based on their experience with a range of chronic health issues that they attribute to contaminated cabin air, which they say ended their careers. They believe organophosphates in engine oil can enter the cabin as fumes delivered by bleed air systems. They attribute symptoms such as chronic fatigue, mood swings, loss of confidence and persistent headache to aerotoxic syndrome. Government-commissioned studies in the UK concluded in 2011 that cabin air was safe. Critics claim that toxic events occur on the order of roughly one per 100 flights and so may be difficult to detect without full-time air quality sensors. A spokesman for British Airways on the 27th told reporters it is not aware of any legal claims related to the deaths of the two pilots. Autopsy results are pending.

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