Photos: Lucy Brown (Passenger on the flight).

On the 5thAugust 2019) at 3.27pm, a British Airways Airbus A321 took off from London Heathrow for Valencia (Spain). The aircraft was carrying many holidaymakers, including young children. Smoke developed in the cabin (from the air conditioning onboard – which is supplied by Bleed-Air from the aircraft engines) 10 minutes before landing. The smoke would have contained chemicals which can be very harmful to human health if inhaled.  The aircraft was evacuated via the emergency slides in Valencia.

Passengers on this flight, have been requested to write to the airline and ask them what chemicals they may have been exposed to. Below is information (produced by Aerotoxic Team) which may help people understand the seriousness of exposure to contaminated air in aircraft, along with a medical protocol for health professionals (it’s advisable to take this with you to a hospital following exposure to ensure the correct tests are carried out):

This particular aircraft has suffered previous fume event problems, i.e. on the:

02 December 2017 – BA1324 London Heathrow to Newcastle.

The return flight to London (BA1325) was cancelled and the aircraft was positioned back to Heathrow empty.

05 December 2017 – BA 149 London Heathrow to Beirut.

A burning odour was reported in the rear of the aircraft cabin.

05 June 2019 – BA 1474 London Heathrow to Glasgow.

The fumes actually occurred on the previous flight from Edinburgh to London. The smell of the fumes was so strong onboard prior to departure that the aircraft was grounded and another aircraft had to take the flight to Glasgow 1.31hrs later.

08 June 2019 – BA 462 London Heathrow to Madrid.

Prior to departure there was a strange smell in the cockpit. The smell (fumes) made the First Officer feel ill and she offloaded herself from the flight. The aircraft was grounded (again) and a different aircraft took the flight to Madrid 2.45hrs later.

The airlines and the regulator (CAA) now acknowledge that fume events occur, they also acknowledge that the fumes may cause short-term injury to health. They do not however, acknowledge that exposure can cause long-term damage to health. The reasoning behind this is simply that there is no means of detecting in ‘real-time’ what the fumes contain by way of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or Semi Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) namely Tricresyl Phosphate or TCP type Nerve Agents.

51 cases have been put forward by the Union Unite against U.K. airlines on behalf of their members suffering from ongoing medical problems after being exposed to fume events whilst working. Unfortunately hearing these cases has been delayed by the U.K. Justice System until 2021 so no changes in air quality standards or detection responsibilities will be driven by these petitions.

Quote from the CAA:
‘From what is currently known about the concentrations of potentially toxic chemicals in contaminated air, long-term toxic effects would not be expected, but this remains an area of scientific uncertainty’.