An UNCOVERING of Tricks, Methods and Strategies, how to downplay fume events

Excerpts from DokZentrum

Investigations of EASA

The European Aviation Security Agency is Europe's supreme supervisory and licensing authority for aviation and is based in Cologne. According to their specifications (e.g. EASA CS 25.831 and 25.832, pp. 127 f or in the original pagination: 1-D 29 f) „it must be ensured that no ‚dangerous substances’ may be contained in the breathing air during a flight“. In addition, construction regulation 25.1309 stipulates, that sensors must be installed to enable the crew to don oxygen masks in an emergency. So far, only the cockpit is equipped with oxygen cylinders, crew and passengers are not. The oxygen masks, part of the emergency demo before each departure, which are only automatically deployed in case of a rapid decompression emergency case, provide a mix of cabin air and oxygen.

Because across the board prevention is not prelevant, EASA commissioned two studies in 2013. On some flights, the contractors were to measure whether the cabin air contains "dangerous substances" in dangerous doses.

An appropriate approach in such situations if you want to avoid any changes to remedy an inherently awkward situation, are these two options:

Method 1: The permissible limit values are increased. Prof. Helmut VALENTIN, for example,  successfully proposed this in the field of mercury. And that is how it was handled. (cf. The Erlangen VALENTIN School).

Method 2: You simply cannot find problematic values. All you have to do is use the appropriate method. For example, measure something that is not important at all.

This study is that important to EASA that they a) tender two studies,  and b) invest a total amount of around €500,000 in order to be able to communicate in the future, official clarity to just over 500 million people.

Converted to per member state (investment) that amounts to just under 18,000 Euro. In terms of population size in the 28 countries,  Germany accounted for 80,000 Euro of the total cost. The importance EASA attaches to this problem can be clearly seen from this scale.

And so, the results are not too surprising.

The study, which investigated the toxicity of the chemical substances in engine oil, states:  It concluded that neuroactive products are present, but that their concentration in the presence of an intact lung barrier is too low to be a major concern for neuronal function.

It was carried out by a Dutch team.

The study, which tested cabin air quality on a total of 61 test flights, states: "The results show,  that the cabin/cockpit air quality is similar or better than what is observed in normal indoor environments (offices, schools, kinder gardens or dwellings). No occupational exposure limits and guidelines were exceeded."

This study comes from Germany. It was also carried out by a team: the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine and the MHH in Hannover. Their responsible "Project Manager": Wolfgang ROSENBERGER (now, that has of course been changed, read below).

61 test flights are few. One could speak of a statistical zero-relevance. If you take a closer look at the figures, such as the one of the ex-pilot "MK", who was signed off as unfit to fly because of a serious fume event (see: „Once a pilot - never again a pilot“ - actually in German only), it turns out that, additionally,  they often used the same aircraft from Lufthansa and Condor.

On which - for example the consequences of (not) leaking labyrinth seals -  were measured on return flights. To use different planes (or flights) would have made more sense than return flights on the same aircraft, but in view of the much too small sample it doesn't really matter anymore.

The fact, that even during 8 test flights with the Boeing 787, the so-called Dreamliner, which does not ventilate its cabin air with bleed air from the engines, low pollutant levels could also be measured due to the presence of flame retardants in the interior cabin infrastructure, is no argument for the fact that the bleed air principle would therefore not be less dangerous or harmless.

Ultimately, one did not measure what one would have to measure if one wanted to get to the bottom of the problem. With a statistical probability of a serious fume event of 1:2000 you simply have to make more effort.

And it would make sense to compare such substances in the cabin air simultaneously with what can be detected immediately afterwards in the "biological material", i.e. in blood and urine. And then to compare this - as epidemiologists would - with the data of an uncontaminated control group. Not just once. Several times.

But this is not the approach of the VALENTIN school in Erlangen. And the aviation business does not want it.

And this also explains the standstill in this problem: who has an interest in it and why.

Ultimately, one did not measure what one would have to measure if one wanted to get to the bottom of the problem

Wolfgang ROSENBERGER, a project manager working at the MHH-Medizinischen Hochschule Hannover / Germany and frequently comissioned by the industry (also EASA),  is involved in (another)  investigation.  This time  measuring beryllium exposures in commercial aircraft on behalf of the aviation industry. Beryllium is a very hard, light metal and is used in the form of alloys in aviation and space travel, but at the same time it is not only highly toxic, but (unfortunately) also carcinogenic ("berylliosis").

Result, in brief: Beryllium in the cabin air can be excluded. It is a study that Wolfgang ROSENBERGER is responsible for as "project manager".

ROSENBERGER is also busy in 2012. Using "third-party funds from industry", he is responsible at the Institute of Occupational Medicine at the MHH as "project manager" for "investigations into the presence of mono- and diortho-tricresyl phosphates (CPM) in the interior air of aircraft".

ROSENBERGER describes the background of his assignment by the aviation industry as follows:

"Individual symptoms, or the sum of numerous symptoms are summarized under the terms 'aertoxic syndrome' or'sick aeroplane syndrome'. This is not a recognised clinical picture. Many of these symptoms are also described in other interior-associated symptoms, such as sick building syndrome, building related illness and multiple chemical sensitivity. However, in connection with contaminated cabin air a neurotoxic effect is suspected", caused mainly by CPM.

This is what ROSENBERGER now wants to measure. To this end, he examines 117 air samples from 30 flights and examines one can of fresh, and one can of used engine oil.

30 flights are little. Experience to date has shown that 1 fume event occurs in every 2,000 flights. ROSENBERGER's results are not surprising: 1) whether certain components of the oil get into the cabin depends primarily on their concentration in the engine oil. 2) no toxic CPM variants (o-TCP) were measured at relevant levels in the two oils. And all in all:

Overall, all measurement data generated so far, suggest that tricresyl phosphates are not responsible for the observed health complaints. It remains unclear which other substances and/or other influencing factors are causally associated with the described health disorders.

ROSENBERGER did not do what Prof. Chris NETTEN had done in Canada: he did not heat the engine oil to temperatures that are realistic in the compressor of an engine.

ROSENBERGER continues his "Investigations on air quality in commercial aircraft" in 2014. The research report of MHH shows that ROSENBERGER has investigated 20 of a total of 200 substances that can play a role in contaminated cabin air.

ROSENBERGER focused on the analysis of the different variants or isomers of tricresyl phosphates and the chromatographic separation, identification and quantification of these substances. A trade which he obviously masters and which is to be regarded as a basic prerequisite for a subsequent toxicological assessment.

However, ROSENBERGER's efficient analysis has only documented the achievable detection limits for a number of around 20 substances. This means that no statement can be made about the potential danger that may arise.

Such a statement is possible -  and only then -  if the corresponding measurements are carried out in cases of actually occurring fume events. However, a number of at least 5 - 10 fume events should be available as a basis for a well-founded statement. And then all of the 200 potentially occurring harmful substances mentioned above would have to be included. That would be the requirements of seriously working toxicologists.   

Project manager ROSENBERGER  put the current state of his findings of his research on paper as follows:

"The investigations described above are still ongoing. As an interim balance so far, it can be seen that no noticeable contamination  has been determined with reference to existing limits and/or guideline value systems for assessing the air at the workplace or indoors."

What does he mean? "There are no "limit and/or guideline systems" for organophosphates - in Germany. But this is not known to every reader or listener and so one can get the impression that there is - actually - no problem.

With this knowledge ROSENBERGER is  busy on tour. For example, on October 31, 2014 he is at the German Academy for Aviation and Travel Medicine in Seeheim:  his "Investigations into the air quality in Aircraft Cabins" show, that "even during documented odour events no noticeable chemical pollution can be detected".

As we show in the chapter Tricks, Methods and Strategies in Occupational Medicine (actually in German only), this approach is common practice in occupational medicine:

To mitigate real problems by distracting to less relevant aspects. Thus, the focus is not on "fume events" to be taken seriously, but is repeatedly downplayed as "olfactory events". 

Instead of mentioning the chemical cocktail, which can play a role, the argument is primarily focused on one (single) substance: Tricresyl phosphate (TCP).

It is not said that one has never measured a dangerous "fume event".

Lufthansa’s measuring kit, developed by Wolfgang ROSENBERGER.

There is also talk of the measuring kit, which Wolfgang ROSENBERGER has developed and which is used by Lufthansa on various aircraft types.

In its February 2017 „Cabin Air Quality Crew Info“, Lufthansa reports the following result of a total of 108 flights on page 2, to its employees:

"On these test flights, some smelling events (smell events) were reported by the cabin and cockpit crew. The analysis, which we had carried out by various independent institutes and laboratories, has shown,  that in the onboard odour incidents reported in this study, neither a health hazard from the cabin air nor a connection to neurotoxic o-TCP or other chemical substances in harmful concentrations, was percepted".

108 measurement flights related to a number of 1: 2,000 flights on which a serious fume event occurs on a statistical average, is 5.4 % of the quantity actually required - according to the probability calculation. In a statistics seminar (which is not part of an occupational medicine training) such an interpretation would probably spark  amused laughter. Students would probably think of the book written by Walter KRÄMER, professor of statistics at the TU Dortmund: "So man lies with statistics".

The year 2014 is one in which ROSENBERGER is on tour several times. He had already presented his technology at a conference on indoor hygiene organised by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in May.

In July in Marseille, France, where the 8th AIRMON Conference took place: International Symposium on Modern Principles of Air Monitoring and Biomonitoring. A curriculum vitae of ROSENBERGER also appears on the list of announced speakers, with several functions and activities that are abundantly exaggerated. This will be revealed by journalist and filmmaker Tim van BEVEREN 2016 in a lengthy article on the platform: "Contaminated cabin air: The Captain of Hannover".

ROSENBERGER has neither completed his doctorate nor other academic studies. ROSENBERGER also does not function as a "lecturer", does not give independent lectures at the MHH, as this term may suggest and which is reserved exclusively for academics. ROSENBERGER is also not a "scientific assistant" at the Hannover Institute of Occupational Medicine. "Project manager" ROSENBERGER is  only "technical laboratory manager", later admitted by the MHH .    

The entry of the name "Wolfgang ROSENBERGER" on the MHH homepage provides further interesting information: "changes" to the research reports of the Hannover Medical School are displayed .

The changes do not apply to the content. The changes all only concern the name of his boss: the Erlangen VALENTIN student Prof. Dr. med. Renate WBRITZKY. Where the name ROSENBERGER as "project manager" used to be, now it is WRBITZKY. ROSENBERGER is suddenly only an "employee", as can be seen, for example, in the 2012 research report.

Apparently it has become too 'hot' or even embarrassing for the VALENTIN student to expel her "technical laboratory manager", who goes on tour all over the country to preach the unproven connections at Lufthansa events, the "Berufsgenossenschaft Rohstoffe und Chemische Industrie", and other institutions ...  as "project manager". The excerpts from the three research reports mentioned above show the original wording in the print form. 

Subsequent changes to authorship, for whatever reason and regardless of whether in journals or research reports, do not comply with the rules on "safeguarding good scientific practice" set by the German Research Foundation (DFG). According to the DFG, "honorary authorship" or "management of an institution or organisational unit in which the publication has appeared", or "mere organisational responsibility for the procurement of funding", are considered "fundamentally unacceptable".

But apparently are acceptable for an occupational medicine institution dedicated to the spirit of the VALENTIN school in Erlangen.

Lufthansa - BG Verkehr und Laboratory Technician ROSENBERGER: a perpetuum mobile

How industrially controlled research in connection with cabin air functions in Germany, is now also available as a graphic. LH finances BG Verkehr (as do others) on the one hand , on the other hand also the research (as do others) at the Hannover Medical School MHH. They can rely on Wolfgang ROSENBERGER’s results, to which Lufthansa themselves and BG Verkehr regularly refer, for example, in their refusal notices concerning applications for the recognition of the consequential health damages after fume events.

ROSENBERGER - respectively his former boss, who is now retired - works (as do others) in the spirit of the VALENTIN School of Erlangen, now in the fourth generation. (more here: Its outstanding characteristic is - and always has been - its openly demonstrated closeness to the professional occupational liability associations.

The graphic in English can be opened here by clicking on it or via the link (there in German): 

We asked Wolfgang ROSENBERGER and his former boss, Prof. WRBITZKY, who has since retired, how these subsequent changes came about. Neither of them felt obliged to answer either the DokZentrum or  the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Only the MHH press spokesman made a statement about ROSENBERGER: "Errors have occurred in MHH research reports - certainly also because of the high regard of his superiors. ... We are sorry for these errors, we have corrected them in the pdf version of the research reports."


Compilation & Translation: Bearnairdine Beaumont