The Aerotoxic Cockpit


Pilots at the U.K.’s Houses of Parliament on June 18 made a case that airline pilots and cabin crew are being exposed to toxic oil contaminants that are ultimately rendering them victims of “aerotoxic syndrome” and medically forced into retirement, according to As a result of the complaints, two investigations are being opened that will follow 1,500 pilots and study the cabin air supply on commercial airliners to seek out any foundations for aerotoxic syndrome. Pilots make the case that the compressed air drawn off engines may be compromised by oil if an engine seal leaks or fails.

Susan Michaelis, a former pilot, believes toxic tricresyl phosphate can leak into the cabin and cause lasting health effects. Michaelis carried out a survey of 250 pilots and reported that 8 percent had to be retired on health grounds relating to air contamination, according to NewScientist.

Symptoms allegedly caused by long term exposure include “neurological and respiratory problems, memory loss, difficulties with speech, and chronic fatigue.” The specific contamination is represented in a “dirty socks” smell, according to Michaelis.