Pilot’s Crusade Against “Toxic” Cabin Air


John Hoyte flew for 30 years and says chronic fatigue and memory loss caused by toxins circulated in the air systems of the aircraft he flew forced him to walk away at the age of 49. Now 55, Hoyte wants to lobby the government to force airlines to recognize a link between toxic fumes on their aircraft and negative health effects for pilots. He has set up the Aerotoxic Association based on his belief that exposure to fumes in airliners caused him to suffer neurological damage.Hoyte’s belief is generally unsupported by the industry and may be challenged by some studies.

According to an Independent Committee on Toxicity, “fume events” take place on roughly one out of every 2,000 flights aboard jet airliners. A review concluded in 2007 thata link between cabin air and pilot healthcould not be established. That review stopped short of ruling out the possibility. The Department of Transportation’s position is that there is no evidence for pollutants in the cabin exceeding guidelines for health and safety standards. The British Air Line Pilots’ Association believes further testing should be conducted. Hoyte says he has been tested along with 26 other pilots as part of a university study and all the participants showed effects from exposure to toxins. He says that after the study he was told he suffered from aerotoxic syndrome caused by breathing oil fumes. A coming University of Amsterdam study will sampling 30 crew members with neurological complaints to see if it can establish evidence of a link to toxins in cabin air.