Contaminated Cabin Air: A Health Problem becomes certainty. The Chronology of the socalled Aerotoxic Syndrome

Passengers should never be exposed to health risks when flying! This is one of the principles of the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA. Nevertheless, there is a health risk: in the form of contaminated cabin air. Although it is now medically provable that flying can deposit toxins in the body of passengers, pilots and flight attendants, the entire industry wraps itself in a silent cloak. Likewise the authorities.

Here, we reconstruct how the problem of contaminated cabin air came to pass. And why it still is one to this day. You can access this site directly and link under this short , easy to remember permalink

The chronology terminates end of 2017. To get informed what's going on and what's not and why not, please look for the AeroToxic LogBook in ENglish:


The first jet engine aircraft is put into operation: the German ‚Messerschmitt ME 262’.

After the end of WW2, the Allies dismantle still existing aircraft of this type, in particular to analyse the engine design. They then develop their own prototype which was to be used in their military aircraft. The only problem is, that an oil is needed to keep the turbines running without burning it due to the heat generated. Specifically: the oil had to withstand over 400 degrees celsius (can)


Fully synthesized oils are produced which ensure optimal performance even under the most adverse conditions. One of the most effective additives for these engine oils: organophosphates, in particular: trycresyl phosphates (TCP).

At the time the manufacturers of these oils know that these additives are neuro toxins. Also the engine builders know.

Therefore, tricresyl phosphates are presented today (2017) in WIKIPEDIA. It is one of those articles which are relevant and complete in content and have obviously not been edited by the "admin", who otherwise  monitors the keyword "aerotoxic syndrome":

Because this contribution is managed by a different WIKIPEDIA admin and not by the person responsible for the ‚aerotoxic syndrome’, the following is stated (quote source): 

„Tricresyl phosphate is used as a plasticizer in nitrocellulose, acrylate laxquers, varnishes and in polyvinyl chloride. It is a flame retardant in plastics and rubbers. It is used as a gasoline additive, as a lead scavenger for tetraethyllead. It is a hydraulic fluid and a heat exchange medium. It is also used be the U.S. Navy in its pure form as a lubricant in cryogenic liquid pumps. Exploiting its hydrophobic properties, it is used for the waterproofing of materials. It is a solvent for liquid-liquid extractions, a solvent for nitrocellulose and other polymers. It is used an an antiwear and extreme pressure additive in lubricants and hydraulic fluids.“(unquote source) 

The poisonous toxicity of these additives is in any case already known. To those who manufacture and use it.


Because US air force pilots have been complaining a long time about blurred vision, headaches, dizziness and coordination problems when flying their planes, the United States Air Force Medical Service and the Aerospace Medical Association point out that pyrolized engine oil can contain irritants and toxins.

They warn that "even a slight physical impairment caused by gasses is sufficient to lead to increased piloting errors, which is dangerous for aviation".


The jet era begins 

The French aircraft "Caravel" has her maiden flight. She is powered by two turbines from the British manufacturer Rolls-Royce, for which a bleed-air system was designed.

Up to this point, passenger aircraft were supplied with oxygen via a ram-air system. The air was not sucked in via the turbine, but was sucked into the outer skin of the aircraft. The change to the bleed-air system has an advantage: now the compressor which prepares the outside air for the cabins is no longer needed. This makes the aircraft lighter and it can be operated with less fuel -  cost saving.

The potential technical (and therefore potential health) consequences are not considered at this time. The bleed air principle (‚bleed air’) is considered to be practical. Simply also because the (very cold) air is already heated before it is fed into the air conditioning system - cooled and distributed.

The drawback or the potential problem: if the seals, behind which the synthetic oil keeps the turbines running, weaken or fail, evaporated engine oil can enter the aircraft through the airflow system: into the cockpit as well as into the passenger cabin. Amongst others: tricresyl phosphates.

What manufacturers and airlines also know: in the case of so-called load changes, ie ascending and landing, the self-sealing gaskets, which seal themselves by the pressure of the oil itself, almost always lead to minimum amounts of oil vapor.




Germany: University of Würzburg 

At the Pharmacological Institute, one year before Dr. Dietrich HENSCHLER received his title as professor, with a fundamental paper on the various tricresyl phosphates  (TCP). Result: most of these organophosphates are highly toxic and dangerous. In 1958, the paper appears in a compact form in the journal ‚Klinische  Wochenschrift’  (issue 15, 15th July): Tricresyl Phosphate Poisoning. Thus, the health problem is now known in occupational medicine.

HENSCHLER will go on to be chair of Toxicology and Pharmacology in Würzburg from 1964 -1994 and will be chairman of the so-called MAK commission for a long time: the German Research Foundtion (DFG), which is responsible for and determines the "maximum workplace concentration levels".

In 2009, 51 years later, HENSCHLER will summarise the health problem in an article in the ‚DIE WELT’ newspaper, in short: "It is one of the most elitist toxins we know. The poisoning sequela is so terrifying that you can not ignore the fact that everything has to be done in order to avoid it. (the contamination, editor's note).

From 1963

‚Bleed-Air’: the system is established

All passenger aircraft no longer have ram-air supply systems, but bleed-air systems due to the successful launch of the Boeing 727.

The inventors of the bleed-air system, the French airline ‚Sud Aviation’, amalgamated shortly afterwards with ‚Nord Aviation’ to become ‚Aerospatiale’. This will later be merged with ‚Messerschmitt Bölkow Blohm’ (Germany), ‚Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA’ (Spain) and the ‚British Aircraft Corporation’ (Great Britain). In 1970/71 a new aircraft construction giant will emerge: Airbus. As a competitor to the American monopolist Boeing.

The 1970’s

There  is hardly any information from these years. Flying is becoming more and more normal - not necessarily for private travel, but for the flourishing tourism in warmer climates; charter flying brings new direction to the already growing market: for the tour operators, the engine and aircraft builders, and the airlines. 

Concerns that many, especially younger people have about the impact of new technologies, key words: nuclear power plants,  are fundamentally belittled by politicians and the majority of the population -  new jobs are considered more important than all concerns.

Health and environmental awareness, reflection on sustainability - all of these are attitudes that will enter public awareness with a new movement: the entry of the GREEN Party into the first parliaments (Hessischer Landtag 1982, Bundestag 1983).  Thus, from todays point of view, it can be assumed that incidences of the kind in question, such as smell and fume events, were considered as unavoidable side effects, which are not given any further attention. In any case, not in the public eye. 

But within the industry: 

  • In its ‘British Civil Airworthiness Requirements’, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) criticizes ventilation problems in the aircraft in connection with harmful fumes, in particular concerning the aircraft type ‘BAe 146’.
  • A year after this, a first medical case is addressed  in the medical journal "Clinical Toxicology": "Human intoxication following inhalation exposure to synthetic jet lubricating oil" (Vol 11, 423-426). After a fume event a cabin crew member had become incapacitated.
  •  In 1981 further such incidences can be found in writing in an Aerospace Information Report (AIR 1539, 30/1/81) of the ‘Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE): "Engine compressor bearings upstream of the bleed ports are the most likely sources of lube oil entry in the engine air system and thence into the bleed system contaminating the cabin / cockpit air conditioning system.

All this industry information will be accessible to an interested public by 2005, ‘only’ a quarter of a century later, when the Australian toxicologist Prof. Dr. med. Chris WINDER and his (then) student Susan MICHAELIS will publish an expert article: ‘Aircraft Air Quality Malfunction Incidents’.


Within the industry of aviation and related medical disciplines, an article by R.B. Rayman and G.B. McNAUGHTON is publicised: ‚Smoke / Fumes in the Cockpit’. The journal is renowned and recognized: ‚Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine’ (No. 54, August). Content: between 1970 and 1980, 89 such incidences were recorded in the US Air Force. Cause: organic mineral oil derivatives. Consequences: significant impairment of the pilots.

Since air force aircraft fly at high altitudes, at extreme speeds and with daring flight maneuvers, the use of the oxygen mask is standard for all pilots so the problem is not so serious. In contrast to civil aviation. In which case, pilots can only use the oxygen mask in an emergency. And, it only lasts an hour.


BAE Systems: Aircraft type BAe 146

British Aerospace, manufacturer of the famous aircraft type ‚BAe-146’ is forced to warn about possible oil contamination in aircraft cabins for the first time. They issue a "Service Information Leaflet" (SIL). E.g. with the numbers 32-34, no. 4, which has to be ammended over and over again in the following years:

The official recommendation:

"Operating the system, before the first revenue of the day, in hot mode for five minutes (manually controlling) the duct temperature at 70 Celsius. This will help purge residual oil from the packs and ducting. " (quote)



At the end of 1991 the Australian airline acquired all BAe 146 aircraft from its subsidiary ‚East-West’. Reason: due to constant problems and complaints by crew members and from passengers, they want their own engineers to make possible technical improvements. Ansett has a whole fleet of BAe 146 aircraft themselves.

For this reason ‚Ansett’ distributes an "In-Flight Health Survey" amongst their staff to fill in after such incidences. Ansett wants more detailed information:

In the years 1992-1994 Ansett documents over 3800 incidents related to oil spills. Below is a graphic compiled by Ansett. The abbreviations EWS, EWR etc. stand for specific designs of the aircraft type BA3 146. This original graphic will only become known publicly in 2010 when the Australian toxicologist Prof. Dr. Chris WINDER presents his paper ‚Aerotoxic Syndrome’:

The consequences of the many incidents is: the problems begin to accumulate. First passengers demand compensation. However, the cabin crew of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) also calls for consequences when a fairly big incident occurs on the flight from Sydney to Coolangatta. More detailed information can not be reconstructed today - despite the inflight health surveys.

A meeting in Hatfield (UK), the production site and aerodrom of British Aerospace (BAe)

In the mean time, the aircraft manufacturer ‚British Aerospace’ is arguing about the responsibilities with the APU manufacturer (Auxiliary Power Unit) and ‚Garrett’ (now: Honeywell Aerospace, USA); now ‚Ansett’ and the trade union FAAA are also getting involved. A meeting in Hatfield will be arranged in August (1992). Result: ‚Garrett’ will overhaul all APU auxiliary engines at their own expense and will install improved sealing gaskets.

And: a little later, in 1993, a secret treaty was signed. BAe is to pay Australian Airlines 750.000 Australian dollars for the eventuality of any damages claims made by ‚fume event’ passengers. This contract is (of course) secret and so, no one knows of it.

It is the first case to become known in which the industry has agreed to settle with ‚hush-money’. However: only 14 years later, in 2007: a whistleblower will send the secret agreement to a representative of the Australian Parliament.


With the modifications of the APU's, the auxiliary engines required at take-off and landing, the number of smell and fume events drops significantly. But even after that, smell and fume events still occur on a regular basis. Just not quite as many.

The problem seems to be in the construction:

From the mid-1990’s onward

Nevertheless, in Australia,  the number of diseases that seem clearly to be associated with fume events is increasing. Still suspicious: the aircraft  BAe 146 from British Aerospace.

Many of the affected people turn to specialist Professor Dr. Chris WINDER, who works at the University of New South Wales at the "School of Safety Science". He will remember later (2015) in Tim van BEVEREN's film "Unfiltered Breathed-In":

"At first two pilots and one stewardess came in 1997. A little later three became five, five became ten, then twenty. That’s when I realized: something is going on here, and then a French colleague with similar numbers of victims appeared - I had an international problem on my hands. "

Still in Australia

In this year there is, yet again,  an air quality incident on a BAe-146. It will be the only officially registered incident (by the authorities):

At a later stage, in 2000,  there will be a more or less complete list of all reconstructable fume events,  when the Australian Parliament’s examination commission will submit their final report.

Below is the compilation of the parliamentary investigation commission, which is not yet available at this time. Behind the picture (click) the multi-page table can be found as pdf file :

The Australian Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) makes recommondations in an interim report (No. 199702276). However, the Civil Aviation Security Agency (CASA) does not accept this and does not react to it.

The only substantial investigation of fumes entering the cabin of BAe-146 aircraft is the result of an incident in which the pilot of a ‚National Jet Systems’ cargo aircraft was exposed to  fumes in the cockpit while approaching Melbourne airport. The result: unfit to fly, loss-of-license.

The ATSB (formerly BASI) is conducting an extensive investigation of similar events and is of the opinion that the incidents are  „rarer than rare". However, they do draw attention to the fact that the consequences of such incidents could constitute a security deficit.

End of the 1990's

Worldwide ...

... jet aircraft are in use. Not just the BAe 146. Smell and fume events become more and more frequent - despite the constant technical modifications of the turbines or the APU. Flight attendants demand that their unions do something, passengers express their displeasure: in private and in public.

Slowly the problem seeps into editorial offices. US journalists report "poisonous oil fights" at ‚Alaska Air’ and the Australian ‚Ansett’. The British Guardian titles an article on December 19.1999: 'Zombie gas' plane threat. Lethal fumes are being blamed for a series of near desasters in the skies.

In other words, the subject is bit by bit causing a stir in the public. View our small media resonance analysis:  How the public learns about contaminated cabin air.

Mid 1999


In the meantime, the Australian government can no longer ignore this problem. Also due to some other airplane disasters in Australia, involving the BAe 146. They appoint an investigative commission who in turn invites the public to participate to i.e. report own observations of incidents etc. Apparently it has been recognised that the own authorities’ official data is more than incomplete.

The Australians use the possibility. In addition to references about technical and other problems, the commission receives 53 reports on one and the same subject: the BAe 146 aircraft and strange odor incidents.

31 of these references are officially received, 22 under the seal of confidentiality. The commission is surprised and sets up a separate commission focussing only on this issue.


Three scientists from Australia, France and the USA

Jean-Christophe BALOUET (FR), Harry HOFFMAN (USA) and Chris WINDER (AU) work independently, but each knows what the others are working on, and they find a common name for the hitherto unknown phenomenon, respectively the consequences caused by contaminated cabin air poisoning and resulting health problems: Aerotoxic Syndrome.

•    Jean-Christophe BALOUET is an environmental scientist and paleontologist, working as a consultant for the "United Nations Environment Program"

•    Harry HOFFMAN († 2004) has been working for years as a doctor for the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, and  later works in the field of occupational medicine in California

•    Chris WINDER († 2014) is a toxicologist at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

The article is titled ‚Aerotoxic Syndrome: Adverse Health Effects Following Exposure to Jet Oil Mist during Commercial Flights’.

1999 - 2000


In the Australian Senate’s investigation commission, authorities, airlines and the industry are invited. All have to testify.

Mick TOLLER, director of the Australian Aviation Authority (CASA): "Undoubtedly, all aircraft suffer from time to time from fumes in the cabin. I think we have carefully pointed out that this is related to the basic design principle of air-conditioning systems in airplanes, the engine’s bleed-air and they leak sometimes. "

British Aerospace explains:

"... the engine is the only source of high pressure, high air temperature on this or other jet aircraft in the world. It is the source used by every aircraft manufacturer nowadays. The fact that the air is removed before it is reintroduced into the combustion process means that there are no combustion products in the air. This air from the engine is fed into the rear of the aircraft. It is then portioned into air conditioning units after the pressure has been reduced and the temperature has been lowered and then fed into the cabin.

The cockpit is similar. The air passes through tubes into the aircraft and is fed into the cockpit; the only difference is that, compared to the passenger compartment, the double quantity of air reaches the cockpit. The pilots are accordingly given ten cubic per minute. Passengers get five per minute. These are the requirements. All the air comes from the same place: the engine compressor. "

Nevertheless, British Aerospace admits to:

„.. receive from time to time reports of cabin air smell. This is mainly due to minor system faults such as oil leaks in the auxiliary turbines of the aircraft engines. "

Mr. Black, Senior Vice President, Engineering Customer Support and Quality at British Aerospace, refers to Dr BALOUET's template when he says:

"The Balouet report ... identifies 500 smell events worldwide. If the 93 incidents registered in Australia are related to the 500 global incidents, this does not seem unreasonable. Balouet says in his report that airlines in Alaska have registered 1000 complaints, Canadian airlines 600 and that there are currently about 30 cases brought to court. But regarding the 146, as far as I can estimate, there are no such cases still pending or currently being tried in court. Again, when I refer to BASI statistics, only 12 of the 93 cases are related to the 146.

With the preponderance of human evidence and suffering which obviously prevails, there must be something. On the one hand, we are sure that there is no flight safety risk. We are sure that our aircraft complies with all rules. But if you look at the mass of evidence, it is possible to conclude that there is a problem ...

But all the evidence does not prove that our plane leaks more than any other aircraft and that it does not release dangerous chemicals in to the cabins. We know there is a health risk and we will continue our cooperation with ASHRAE and ASTM to find the source. "

Australia's airline ‚Ansett’ reported to the committee that:

"In 1992 the worst year,  only 1.5 percent of the total Ansett BAe 146 flights reports (in writing) were filed about odors  on board. Today, the number is significantly lower, even with our mandatory reporting systems.

In 1992, engineers’ protocol reports showed that all 66 flights were reported to have had an odor. In the first half of this year however, such a smell event only occurs in one of  160 flights. Or, if we only attach importance to the events that the cabin crew deemed reportable, such an event only takes place on one in 460 flights. "

Cpt. Trevor JENSEN, Ansett Airlines / Australia: "The source of the odors was identified to be Mobil Jet Oil II, which  leaked in to the air supply through oil seals in the engines and / or auxiliary assemblies."

Bill Black, British Aerospace: "We do not doubt at all that there is a general health problem here. The number of people concerned makes it clear that there is a problem. What I would like to make clear is: the step from a general health problem to the fact that there is a fundamental problem with Mobile-Oil or the type of aircraft is not confirmed by any evidence. There is no indication from our side that we reject or ignore those affected. Clearly, there is a problem that needs to be addressed. "

At the end of 2000, two years later, the commission is of the opinion that there is something like the Aerotoxic Syndrome and that it causes short-term or medium-term health problems. And probably also long-term health problems: Air Safety and Cabin Air Quality in the BAe146 Aircraft.

The commission submits a series of recommondations to the government. Not one will be carried out by the Australian authorities. More: How the Australian parlament reacted. And what happened.



The BAe is not only used in Australia. This type of aircraft is also very popular for medium-haul flights (up to 70 seats) in Germany. Especially at ‚Lufthansa’ and its subsidiary ‚Cityline’.

In the industry "oil smell events" are simply termed "odor nuisances". This is the official language used. As a result pilots hardly ever use their oxygen masks when such an incident occurs. The oxygen masks are only required if the events are determined as "fire", "smoke" and "fumes". The consequence is: many pilots do not dare make an emergency landing due to such an incident. Instead, they continue to fly.

One of the pilots is Lufthansa Captain Sandy VERMEER (name has been changed). In 2002 he was taken by surprise 9 times during his work by such "odors", while at the controls in the cockpit. In January 2002, twice in one day. Captain VERMEER and his copilot fly a BAe 146 Avroliner from the Lufthansa Group:

Example: During the flight from Katovice to Frankfurt a bad smell develops in the cockpit, which is likened to "old socks" DER SPIEGEL reports.

The smell is difficult to bear. Sandy VERMEER’s head is splitting and his co-pilot is overcome by neausea. Both of them feel so ill that they put on their oxygen masks. Only now do they notice how bad they actually felt before donning the masks. VERMEER describes the donning of the oxygen mask "as if a veil was removed from over him and his co-pilot." But they were able to land the aircraft safely and hand it over to the technicians.

VERMEER will be confronted with such incidents more often in the coming years. He gradually notices changes in his health, such as fatigue, exhaustion and three days in a row a bad hiccup. This is followed by cardiac arrhythmias. On his doctors advice he takes psychotherapy sessions. He then sits at the airplane controls for another few months. The stench and the discomfort however, return over and over again. Over the next six years, up until 2008, VERMEER will be involved nearly 50 times in such incidents.

As a consequence, he is suffering more and more from anxiety disorders, specifically: an anxiety trauma with panic attacks which was diagnosed by a psychiatrist. In 2008, he was declared unfit to fly. His dream - gone. The end of his profession, and the end of his salary.

Lufthansa, respectively its subsidiary Cityline leave him high and dry. Probably done as a ‚punishment’ since VERMEER had regularly drawn attention to the problem and solicited answers and solutions within the company. The Captain was also outspoken in public. He had repeatedly spoken with journalists and expressed the opinion that the aerotoxic problem is a health problem; not only for flight crews, but also for passengers.

But, Deutsche Lufthansa AG apparently does not like such activity  at all. They leave the unfit to fly pilot simmering:

  • They stop paying his salary - the Captain can no longer offer his contractual work
  • They don’t sack him, because he would react with litigation (work protection clause) and then the situation would be brought before a labour court. And again to the public.
  • Lufthansa also does not offer him an office job (duty of care) – it seems that punishment of their conscientious pilot is their choice of action.

VERMEER has to live from his loss-of-license insurance. This guarantees a minimum income, but only lasts a few years. When the insurance expires in 2015, VERMEER will have to sue his former employer. A  labour court settlement is agreed upon: the former LH Captain receives a (very) modest compensation. In return, he has to submit a declaration of secrecy:

"In particular, the plaintiff will not establish or maintain contact with the media in order to make comments on the cabin air pollution caused by oil fumes or by mentioning the names of the defendant or another company. The applicant is aware that he would be in breach of compliance defined in this agreement. For each case of infringement, the applicant will pay a penalty of EUR 11,054 (the amount of a last gross monthly salary). "

However, this has not yet happened. And Sandy VERMEER is not really aware of what is happening.


USA: University of Durham (North Carolina)

Here the toxicologist Prof. Dr. Mohamed ABOU-DONIA is researching organophosphates. He wants to track down the chain of effects in the human body. In his pioneering publication, ‚Organophosphorus ester-induced chronic neurotoxicity’, he proves that these substances can render the function of one of the fastest enzymes in the human organism, the acetylcholinesterase (AChE), inoperable. The immediate consequence is that poisoneous toxins are not degraded or not degraded as quickly. The consequences: restrictions of the neurological functions, which can last over a longer period of time.

Sandy VERMEER does not (yet) know about these findings.

2005 - 2006


The book ‚Air Quality in Airline Cabins and Similar Enclosed Spaces’, a handbook of environmental chemistry, is published in English language, which is the language used in international aviation. With several contributions from: Susan MICHAELIS, a former student of Australian Prof. Dr. med. Chris WINDER. She has been flying regularly as a co-pilot since 1997 (incl. a license  for BAe 146), until she was medically terminated after several incidents. Since then, she also wants to tackle the problem medically.

For this, Susan MICHAELIS evaluated the health symptoms of affected professional pilots flying BAe 146 and Boeing 757. And she also knows why her (former) colleagues rarely report such incidents as she explains in a detailed interview with ABC News: „Pilots who report such problems are either downgraded or they are not promoted. The crews are afraid.“

Now, together with Chris WINDER, she publishes a significant article: ‚Aircraft air quality malfunction incidents: Causation, regulatory, reporting and rates’. Extract(Abstract):

The issue of aircraft air contamination due to oils and hydraulic fluids leaking into the aircraft air supply is a known problem in the aviation industry. There are a range of regulations that are in place to ensure all cases of fume contamination are reported and therefore investigated. However, there is strong evidence that the reporting system to regulatory agencies is not working and, consequently, under-reporting occurs and the fume events taking place are considerably higher than the aviation industry admits. There are a variety of reasons for this including commercial pressures, fatalism about long-standing and apparently insurmountable engineering problems, operational procedures that focus on keeping aircraft flying and a culture to minimize costs.

The publication does not spark enthusiasm in the aviation industry.

"The FAA is increasingly affected by numerous reports of smoke or fumes in the cockpit and in passenger cabins. Our analyses of the data show that a large number of such incidents have not been reported. "

The FAA sees the "under-reporting" as a serious problem, the European supervisory authorities consider this to be very exaggerated.

The British Airplane Pilot Association (BALPA) publishs a 320paged reader "Contaminated Air Protection", compiled by Chris WINDER - results of the BALPA-Proceedings, taken place in April at the School of Safety Science at University of New South Wales. Years later, the BALPA will change it's mind: the problem is no longer discussed.

Meanwhile, British Aerospace publishes its "Service Information Leaflet SIL 21-45“ in a 4th modified version. Title: ‚Cabin Air Troubleshooting Advice and Relevant Modifications’. It is recommended that the airlines send their crews to a doctor immediately after an event to have blood and urine samples taken. In addition, a report should be sent directly to BAe.

Lufthansa's Cityline, for example, provides their crew selectivally from this 27-page information: only the last two pages, which contain a "Cabin Air Quality Questionnaire", in which a few details are given and are ‚sort of’ catalogued.

June 2007

System change at Boeing: the new Dreamliner (Boeing 787)

At the House of Lords, the Boeing aircraft manufacturer explains, that it can be done differently and is possible, and that the breathing air does not have to be drawn via bleed-air. Due to the massive amount of criticism, e.g. also from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that same year ( 2006), the British Government had  commissioned an investigation.  Reason: "The Government does not want anybody to be exposed to a health risk when flying; we are working hard to close the existing knowledge gaps."

Similar to Australia, representatives of the aviation industry are also heard in London. To their great surprise Boeing announces a paradigm shift for the future:

"The Boeing 787 will not use bleed-air to supply oxygen to the cabins, which will eliminate the risk of engine oil contamination that could occur in the rare case of a turbine seal failure, as well as improve fuel efficiency, fuel burns and associated engine emissions. "

The new aircraft is officially put into operation in 2011.

13. August 2008

Secret agreements in Australia

Fourteen years later, the secret agreements between BAe and the Australian airlines from 1993 come to light. The documents that have now appeared indicate that one was aware of the problem of contaminated air, but that it was being kept secret for economic reasons.

One of these documents is a contract signed between Ansett, British Aerospace (BAe) and EastWest Airlines (EWA) dated 03.09.1993.

"BAe agrees with Ansett and EWA to pay 750.000 Australian dollars as final settlement for all litigation regarding damages claims against BAe due to oil or other fumes which affect the cabin air, that Ansett or EWA currently have, or in the future will have."

The document ends with a secrecy clause:

“The existence and terms of this Agreement are confidential between the parties hereto and shall not be disclosed by any party in whole or in part to any other person or body without the prior written consent of the other parties.“

The Reaction of the then President of the Australian Examination Commission, former Senator John WOODLEY, who is now working as a pastor in his home town: "I am convinced there has been a cover-up and  that the "silence“ was bought. If we had had this information at the hearings we would have recommended that this type of aircraft be taken off line. "


Unfit to fly: the labour trap

For Sandy VERMEER (see entry 2002) the year 2008 will be the year in which, after several attempts and stays in hospitals, he is ultimately found to be ‚unfit to fly’ by Lufthansa's aviation physician. Because VERMEER has kept a diary, he can show the aviation physican that he has been involved in some 50 "odorous" scenarios: toxic fumes from the turbines. The aviation physician reports this to the ‚Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr’ (BG Transport) and expresses the assumption that the ‚unfit-to-fly’ verdict is due to these incidents.

For VERMEER, this means the end of his profession. And foreseeable financial difficulties, since he receives no more salary payments. He is not being terminated.

If he was, he could counter with a prosecution. Then the case would go to the labour court, where a judge - at least in a normal case - would ask the reason for the termination. Lufthansa / Cityline would be under pressure for an explanation. And that could also happen in public and would become known.

Vice versa, VERMEER can not sue for salary payments: he can no longer offer his contractually agreed work performance because of illness and flighing inability.

In a normal case (if there is one), the employer's liability insurance would cover the inability to work due to illness at the workplace with the ‚professional disability pension’. This is how  ‚social market economy’ is defined in this country.

But in this case it is different: there is no ‚BK number’ for ill-health consequences in the case of effects that are associated with the diverse clinical picture of the aerotoxic syndrome, which has no causal connection with ‚smell events’ and is not recognised by the BG as such. The belittling and renaming of smell and fume events to ‚odour events’ shows consequences - for the aviation and BG they are positive: they do not have to pay.

And, BG traffic can even justify that: politics are responsible for the admission of a professional illness. Specifically, the Federal Government and the States through the Federal Council.

No matter which way: Sandy VERMEER is trapped. Like many others.

2008 - 2009

Poisoned cabin air: - now on German television

In Germany, a journalist starts to deal with the topic: Tim van BEVEREN -  a pilot himself with 6000 hours of flight experience on different types of aircraft. He works as a freelance journalist, e.g. for WDR and is experienced in aviation business. He was commissioned by the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office to draw up an expert report in connection with the crash of ‚Birgenair’ flight in 1996 (Boeing 757-200), in which all 189 passengers were killed. Nine months later he receives another assignment: an expertise for an American law firm which represented the families of  the 70 passengers killed in the crash of Air Peru flight 603. And about three years before that in 1994, van BEVEREN had made a film about the 1993 crash of a Lufthansa Airbus A320-211 in Warsaw: ‚Deadly Logic’. The 30-minute documentary focused on the problem of the logics of the high-tech computerized Airbus: logics, some of which pilots  already thought spelled disaster during the launch phase of the aircraft.  As then actually happened on that flight.

Meanwhile, Tim van BEVEREN has pilots and cabin crew members contact him, who draw attention to the problems of contaminated cabin air. Tim van BEVEREN starts to research. In 2009, several films are produced for different broadcasters, amongst others the WDR.

One of the first research results:

The numbers of so-called ‚incidents’, or  ‚odour events’ as termed by Lufthansa (in the international language the term "smell" or "fume events" is used), which must be reported to the relevant supervisory authorities, differ widely from actual happenings. For example, Tim van BEVEREN has determined for the WDR, that for 2008 from 121 reconstructable incidents’ only 56 were reported to BFU, the Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigations. At the Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA) even only 10 were reported. At EASA, the European authority: zero.

This is what research statistics for 2008  look like (more at ‚Incidents: Cases that don’t appear in official statistics’).

02. March 2009

WDR / plus-minus: Unfiltered Breathed In

Because it is comparatively expensive to carry out wipe and air sampling on various flight routes in different types of aircraft from different airlines, and to have them analysed in spezialised laboratoires, a cooperation is formed between WDR broadcaster  "Plus-Minus" and the Swiss "Kassensturz" - the costs are divided and the range, i.e. the number of those affected by the problem of contaminated cabin air, is increased.

The results of all flights: in 28 of 31 samples (resp.: flights) the toxic TCP (tricresyl phosphate) is found. The highest value came from a ‚Condor’ aircraft : 154.9 micrograms on 2 cm2. A value one thousand times higher than the average value of all samples. It is evaluated by Prof. Dr. Christiaan van NETTEN, Toxicologist at the University of British Columbia, Canada, Department of Health and Epidemology.

Asked for an interview,  ‚Condor’ cancels at short notice and instead comments in writing: "For Condor, the safety and health of passengers and employees always have top priority."

Shortly thereafter

Because the first TV report causes an uproar, especially with the employees of the airlines – (not everyone who works in aviation is aware of the problem, because the employers do not mention it) -  the Lufthansa cabin crew manager, mistress of all cabin crews, finds it necessary to communicate a letter to calm the minds:

"Since there are obviously many rumors, speculations and open questions regarding this, we would like to contribute to the objectification and, of course, we take your concerns very seriously. ... Through appropriate procedures it is guaranteed that all health and safety standards are respected ...”

Find the complete Lufthansa newsletter here.

09. February 2009

WDR / ‚Markt’: Toxic Airlines and the Aerotoxic Syndrome

What is known in the industry but not in the public: smell and fume events are more common than officially admitted. And it can be dangerous when pilots are affected. Passengers are generally not informed.

The film reconstructs examples and lets Susan MICHAELIS have her say: formerly a pilot herself, until she was terminated -  unfit to fly - because of multiple events with contaminated cabin air .


Yet again, Lufthansa’s cabin crew manager has to take another step, and on February 18th she releases a much more detailed circular. And will now, for the first time also comment on some facts.

"Air quality of the cabin air during cruising" means: "During routine operation ... the concentration of air-foreign substances lies in the range of trace quantities and are as such in the lower microgram area and thus in the lower detection range of current measurement procedures."

And:  "Over the last three years, no cases have been reported to LH’s Medical Service, in which co-workers describe neurological symptoms attributable to potentially contaminated cabin air."

Not a word about Sandy VERMEER’s case. He was determined unfit to fly just four months earlier because of such symptoms.

The political group ‚Alliance 90 / The Greens’, who have health and sustainability regularly on the agenda are startled in to action. They motion a request to the Federal Government, wanting to know whether they have knowledge of this problem and how many cases of this kind exist.

Answer from the ‚black and yellow’ Government on March 5

  • "The federal government has no knowledge of a fundamental threat to flight personnel and passengers."
  • And regarding the figures: since 2004, since 5 years, there have only  been "156" cases reported at the Luftfahrtbundesamt.

Tim van BEVEREN and the WDR had found a total of 121 cases for 2008 alone.

24. March 2009

WDR/Plus-Minus: Reporting obligations violated?

Within a short time the third film is aired: again incidents which were not reported. The danger of contaminated cabin air is spoken about by Prof. Dr. Dierich HENSCHLER, long-standing chairman of the MAK Commission (Maximum concentration of workplace contamination levels). And the film makes it very clear:  politicians are failing - they have no "knowledge about a threat" or problems as such.

Directly thereafter

The airline ‚Condor’ responds. Just a day later they commissioned their own investigation into their fleet of aircraft. TCP contamination is measured in all their Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

The result: TCP is detected in high concentrations in all types of aircraft:

•    Boeing 757-300 in 5 of 12 aircraft.
•    Boeing 767-300 in 6 of 12 aircraft.
•    Airbus A320 in 11 of 12 aircraft.

The conclusion of the investigation is, that "when looking at the measuring points contaminated with TCP, it can also be seen that in the Boeing 767-300 aircraft, as well as in the Airbus 320’s,  tricresyl phosphate was found, especially in the front area of the aircraft,  with the result that the pilots and cabin crew especially are affected by an increased contamination with TCP. "

However, the study is kept secret. For 5 years. Only a few know the results. Normal Condor employees know nothing about it.


The Occupational Health Research Center in Aviation (OHRCA) and the Airliner Cabin Environment Research Center of Excellence (ACER) provide a "Guide for Health Care Providers": Exposure to Aircraft Bleed Air Contaminants among Airline Workers:

The project has been funded by the FAA, Office of Aviation Medicine

16. March 2010

WDR / Market: Toxins in the aircraft?

Tim van BEVEREN's fourth documentary: incidents at Lufthansa, US Airways, and others. Lufthansa confirms: every 2000 flights one incident. This means that Lufthansa who has about one million flights a year has at least one incident every day.

And: not only tricresyl phosphate gets into the cabin air during incidents, but also the highly toxic beta-naphthylamine. Result: health problems with symptoms of the "aerotoxic syndrome". This is confirmed by Prof. Dr. Chris WINDER (Australia) and Prof. Dr. Mohamed ABOU-DONIA (USA).

This can happen to everyone flying.



Prof. Dr. Chris WINDER  comments again. He has completed his 271-page master thesis paper on ‚Aerotoxic Syndrome’ - in addition to his professorship for toxicology, he also wants to have a formal degree in ‚Public Health’.

The paper reconstructs amongst other things also the beginnings of the knowledge, who knew what and where, when and how much and who had hidden what - a regular crime scene, scientifically prepared.

This chronological reconstruction "How the problem became a certainty" also reverts to WINDER's publication.

His former student Susan MICHAELIS presents her doctoral thesis (PhD), which she publishes as a book: ‚Health and Flight Safety Implications from Exposure to Contaminated Air in Aircraft.’

Independently from that: in Australia, a flight attendant succeeds fort he first time ever in claiming damages in court. Australia is far from Europe, but the consequences of this judgement could have an impact on other countries. So, in ...


internal talks with the Federal Association of German Airlines (BDF) are under way. Their president, Ralf Teckentrup, is also CEO at Condor. The mutual concern, as expressed in the internal protocol for the Bleed Air Contamination / Cabin Air Quality is:

 "The BDF fears that the Australian verdict could create a precedent and if the issue were brought by the media from the previous circle of affected crew members to the affected circle of passengers, a new dimension would be reached in the discussion. A controversial discussion drifting in that direction would lead to a massive loss of reputation among the  FG (‚Deutsche Fluggesellschaften’ = German airlines) and probably result in passenger declines. "

Furthermore it says:

"Particular attention is to be paid to the participation of BG Verkehr and the BFU at the Occupational Safety and Health Conference. This could create additional dynamics if both institutions carry out further investigations. "


"The position of the BDF is to find a rule of common language among its members and to draw up a co-ordinated statement in writing, which can then also be used as a statement in the case of inquiries to BDF and/or its members"

19. October 2010

Incident during landing phase to Cologne-Bonn airport

On this day, one of the most dangerous incidents of documented fume events happens. During the landing approach, the pilot and co-pilot of the Germanwings aircraft suddenly notice a strange odour that smells like a mixture of something burned and charred.  
The co-pilot tells the captain that he is "feeling horribly sick" and dons the oxygen mask. The pilot feels tingling in hands and feet, his field of vision becomes restricted and his senses are leaving him. The plane is continuing its approach. Now panic is spreading.

The captain initiates a ‘mayday’ call, hoping that they can manage the landing. There are 142 passengers in the Airbus. The jet, which is just overhead of Leverkusen, is now approaching the city of Cologne:

"At this point, the co-pilot has difficulties grasping the entire process, he is only able to concentrate on individual aspects of  what is happening and feels that he can no longer process the information.  The captain has now also reached the end of his capacities. He feels distracted by the noise of his own breathing sounds in the oxygen mask and finds this disruptive for the communication between himself and his co-pilot.

During the entire approach he feels physically very ill.  Flying in the mode ‘flight director’,  he is functioning at the upper limit of what seems at all possible to him. "  

This is how the Germanwings' internal flight report reads.  

The landing succeeds but just about. Fire brigades and ambulances are waiting on the apron. Pilot and co-pilot are taken to the hospital. For the co-pilot, this incident will have long-term consequences: six-months unfit-to-fly.  For more details and why this incident has practically not been registered, see Incidents: Incidents that most of the time do not appear in official statistics.

March 2011

The "Cranfield Study"

The Cranfield University (UK), specialising in aerospace, has a study commissioned by the Ministry of Transport in 2007 which is being finalised. The university which works closely with the aviation industry has many partners: the turbines manufacturer Rolls Royce,  British Aerospace, the  state-owned British Airways and other companies from the aviation industry.

The study evaluated (only) 100 test flights – from 1000 that were planned. So, a comparatively small sample. According to official data, only one incident occurs on every 2000th flight  -  a pilot series would have to investigate more than 2000.

On the 100 test flights there were no incidents. In this sense, the base statement is understandable: "There was no evidence of pollutants in the cabin air that would have reached a concentration to exceed health or safety guidelines." However, the authors conceded that disease pictures exist, but they are not (don’t want to relate them) in relation to their examination results.

The study was carried out by Prof. Helen MUIR, Department of Aviation Psychology. No toxicologists, no medical physicians and no occupational health physicians were part of this team. The study consists of two parts and is not published officialy. But you can download it now (2017) via their digital library: part 1 and part 2.

, professor of Cranfield University and international expert in the field of nanotechnology, criticises the study: the test sample is too small, the conclusions drawn from it are not very conclusive. RAMSDEN is not going to make friends at this university - he has to leave Cranfield University; he immediately gets a position at the University of Buckingham. As a 'farewell', he once again explains the problem, which Cranfield apparently does not really want to (or may not) take note of: The scientific adequacy of the present state of knowledge concerning neurotoxins in aircraft cabin air.

26. May 2011

Bayerischer Rundfunk/‚kontrovers’:

Poison on board: when flying makes you sick

Tim van BEVEREN's fifth film on the subject: several incidents and witnesses report. The airlines concerned: TuyFly and Air Berlin. And again, the familiar problem: when the Federal Office (BFU) receives reports of air accident investigations, they often come from third parties not from the airlines. The crews are afraid of loosing their job or fear professional and/or social exclusion.

For the first time an American toxicologist, Prof. Mohamed ABOU-DONIA explains exactly what happens in the human organism when toxic substances enter the body: "We found evidence of cell death and brain damage in all samples of flight crew. But the problem is, that they are usually not brought in to connection with a flight, so they are not related to oil fumes, but rather to infection. "

The airlines do not like this show either. In particular AirBerlin not at all, since an incident was mentioned, which concerned their own airline. AirBerlin writes to the editor-in-chief of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (BR): The program ‚Kontrovers’

  • has spread under the cover of pseudo-science, facts that
  • are not provable

And quote the "Cranfield study" as proof.

The managers of AirBerlin obviously did not read this study, not correctly and/or not completely, and/or perhaps not at all, not correctly and/or only in part correctly, and/or did not completely or correctly understand it, because the authors do not conclude that "cabin air contaminated by residues of engine oil does not present a health risk to passengers and crews.“

For chief editor GOTTLIEB, it is a simple task to answer the airline, in particular because AirBerlin had refused to answer questions on camera before the show aired. 


USA: the new "Dreamliner"

In the US, the delivery of a new aircraft is imminent: the "Dreamliner" - or Boeing 787, successor model of the Boeing 767:

One of the special features and innovations of the Dreamliner is, that the cabin air is no longer drawn from the bleed-air . The modified principle is called ram-air –
injected at the tail-end of the aircraft.

Problems with contaminated cabin air no longer existin this case. The first aircraft builder has taken action. In the USA. Not in Europe.

Germany: the problem ‚contaminated cabin air’ for the first time in the ‚Bundestag’

Because also in 2011:

  • the dramatic incident of a Germanwings aircraft at Cologne-Bonn airport on 19th December 2010 has still not been taken note of by the Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU)
  • but more and more incidents of this kind are becoming known, e.g. via the TV broadcast in May
  • while in the US the Airbus competitor Boeing has drawn consequences from the problem of bleed-air,
  • here, more or less nothing happens.

Sandy VERMEER is in his fourth year of medical unfit-to-fly and without any duties, but not terminated, yet without salary payments; he decides to write a letter to the German Bundestag in particular to the chairman of the local committee.
Somehow, he thinks, the politicians surely would have to worry about what can happen to passengers when they, unsuspectingely,  sit in the airplane looking forward to their holiday?

21. September 2011

On this day, the problem of contaminated cabin air is on the agenda of the Tourism Committee. As usual, the meeting takes place behind closed doors: as a hearing of experts.

Invited as "experts" are: Tim van BEVEREN as a journalist (WDR), Dr. Andreas BEZOLD from Airbus, the scientist and consultant Dr. Susan MICHAELIS, an occupational health physician , a representative from the Cockpit Association (VC), the Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Association of German Air Transport (BDL), Matthias von RANDOW.

Written statements are handed in, in advance by Tim van BEVEREN and Airbus representative Andreas BEZOLD. The positions are known: contrary.

The occupational physician of the Institute for Prevention of the German Statutory Accident Insurance at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Prof. Dr. Jürgen BÜNGER, is no exception: he talks about urine samples (which are not suitable for detection, if they are not taken immediately after an incident), and confirms the existence of certain chemical substances, but concludes: "All these concentrations are, from the toxicological point of view, certainly not the cause of health problems."(Protocol p. 9, original page numbering).

The chairman of the Tourism Committee, Klaus BRÄHMIG (CDU / CSU), seems interested, wants to understand and sees that the bleed-air system is probably ‚not the greatest thing since sliced bread’.

"No-one would have the idea to install the intake port of a car directly next to the exhaust, because it can happen that something escapes via a weld seam and is sucked in there. In Europe we always decide about all kinds of things : the color of the banana and the curvature of the cucumber. I do not want to make assumptions, everyone decides to the best of their knowledge. When I see the technical details in the films, that air for the cabin really is drawn from the engines for whatever reason, ...  that something can happen there due to a broken seal, is technically conceivable and possible.“ (p. 14, original page numbering).

In the course of the statements, Tim van BEVEREN will also be talking about the Germanwing aircraft landing approach to Cologne-Bonn airport (19th December 2010) because a BFU representative is an invited listener. His accusation:  that also this event had not been reported.

An LBA representative (Luftfahrtbundesamt) who is also an invited listener at this hearing of experts now seizes the subject. He obviously has documentation along with him; after checking, he says that the notes state that the Germanwings' problem is not attributable to evaporated turbine oil, but to de-icing fluid.

According to Tim van BEVEREN: "The case was allegedly reported to be an 'incident with de-icing fluids, which occurs very frequently when in descent flight; when one has already flown 1.5 hours,  de-icing fluids can' get into the engines '. This is, of course nonsense, they de-ice the airplane before they take-off and not in descent, there are no de-icing systems at 10000 feet height where an airplane flies. But this case has been reported as such." (p.29, original page numbering) ,

Here you can read the entire protocol (the pages in the PDF  file differ from the original page numbering!)

This small verbal sparring  shows effect:  LBA and BFU are taking this incident seriously for the first time. The BFU will then start an investigation.


The MEPs of BÜNDNIS90 / THE GREEN PARTY know what needs to be done. They put a motion to the plenum (Nr.17/7480), according to which the Parliament should take a decision: this can not carry on this way.

In clear terms, the Bundestag should ask the Federal Government to take action

  • e.g. to reduce the health burden by pesticides, ozone and engine oils
  • to discontinue the use of "neurotoxic" engine oils
  • to promote the use the bleed-air principle at the supra- and international level and to switch to the ram-air system, where the air is not tapped via the engines
  • to promote effective filter systems
  • to demand a risk analysis
  • to commission research to learn more
  • to "equalize" the authority confusion between LBA and BFU
  • to impose a deterrent penalty on aircraft operators in the event of non-notification, not prompt reporting or failure to provide information and assistance services
  • and more.

It is what any reasonable person would probably demand.

Nevertheless: in February 2012,  with majority votes from CD/CSU and FDP , the committee will reject this proposal in the run-up to the Bundestag debate. Justification: there is currently no need for action - "only a few incidents have been reported" in more than 3 million take-offs and landings.

28. September 2012

Showdown in the German Bundestag

Despite the rejection by the Committee of Transport, the topic finds its way into a plenary debate. As a submission to the SPD, to protect the flight crew and travelers from contaminated cabin air and as a request of the GREEN Party to stop contaminated cabin air in airplanes.

Date: 28 September 2012, one year after the expert consultation in the Bundestag's Tourism Committee. Time spent on this topic: half an hour.

Because it emerged one year earlier in the Commitee of Tourism, in 2011, that the fume event on a Germanwings aircraft, which luckily ended well, was not reported to the BFU on December 19, 2010, the Federal Bureau of Flight Accident Investigation finally found it necessary to initiate an investigation - almost one year later. Karsten SEVEREIN, who was commissioned to do so, presented a (first) interim report just one day before the plenary debate in 2012, just under two years after the "serious disturbance". However, without presenting a conclusion or asking  any questions regarding the cause. The report has only a few facts that had been able to be collected at this late stage.

Now MEPs have to decide how to proceed. The majority of the government takes half an hour. Thats 30 minutes.

Excerpts from the debate:

The first speaker: Peter WICHTEL /CDU party. He had been a member of the party for many years and was active in many functions at home (municipal councilor, chairman of a district association, etc.). He had worked for about 40 years at FRAPORT AG, managing Frankfurt / Main Airport. For this company, he was also the labour council, and most recently even the chairman; he also sat as a member of the Supervisory Board of FRAPORT AG and was chairman of the company's personnel committee. Aviation is his business. And the CDU is the majority-leading government party.

Peter Wichtel (CDU):

And so he begins his speech:

"As last year, let me make it clear, the Federal Government is fulfilling its responsibilities in the field of air transport and citizens and passengers are subject to an extremely responsible air transport policy, regardless of whether they are on board or are part of the aircraft crew. The safety of air traffic and the exclusion of health hazards are by far the most important priority above all other concerns.

(Applause from the CDU / CSU as well as from members of the FDP)

And then shortly after that:

"At first I would like to point out that in the past there were different reasons for odour problems in the cabin and not all smells of oil pollution. There were always different causes: kitchen fumes, defective coffee machines, distorted cables and plastic linings that were responsible for these odours. Accordingly, the responsible authorities at national and international level have not seen any need for action ...

It is important to emphasize once again that there is an intact, functioning reporting procedure from the responsible authorities. [...] To what extent the flight of Germanwings in December 2010 [...] actually led to what we are discussing today remains to be investigated by the Federal Office for Flight Accident Investigation : We have to wait for the reports ...

Let me summarize. The cabin air and the current topic are in good hands. The reporting requirements and the reporting paths are in order. I think that the motions of SPD and the Green Party, the methods of measurement and all sorts of things are irrelevant and not needed. That is why we will reject them. Many thanks."

(Applause from the CDU / CSU and the FDP)

The entire speech can be read in the ‚minutes’ (p. 23717)

Hans-Joachim HACKER (SPD):

"What happened since September 21, 2011? [...] The experts have consistently voted on the situation. Even the representatives of the aircraft industry have said that we are undoubtedly facing a problem - even if it has been viewed differently - for the health and lives of crewmembers and passengers.

Nothing was done. [...] They behave like the three well-known monkeys: hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing. What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for the industry to solve this problem alone, without political guidance, to which we would be obliged? [...] You can not solve the problem at the moment, but you can open a path for the solution of the problem and these two motions to the Bundestag from Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and SPD show that ...

On the subject of cabin air, the FDP says: [...] that there is no incident in the case of security that justifies an immediate or general change of regulations. [...] I am telling you: you are ignorant if you do not take the investigation results of the Federal Office for Air Accident Investigation seriously ...

I ask you: How are you dealing with security? How are you dealing with the issue of "health and the life of passengers and crew"? ..

You are showing complete ignorance. The in-action of the Federal Government is unbearable."


"When we talk about contaminated cabin air, one can only agree with colleague Hacker: Obviously, he is already contaminated and has a tunnel view ...

I spoke with Airbus and others before, to educate myself. There is the presumption that this de-icing liquid has, so to speak, collected in puddles and only entered the cockpit area, which led to the known problems ...

The number of problems that we have is so low, and the contamination is so low that it can be assumed that there are no major problems. The number of incidents is below the perception limit. Since we are on the subject of perception: you obviously have perception problems yourself and you try to generate a problem which is not present in this form. For this reason, we will not consider your application. You can think of that ...

A final sentence, dear Madam President, because my speaking time has expired: whoever believes that flying causes any discomfort due to the cabin air, also believes that the problem will disappear by opening the window during flight. "

Markus TRESSEL (Alliance 90 / The Greens):

"Dear Colleagues from the Union and from the FDP, why are you so opposed to have more health protection and why are you against more work safety for the employees of our airlines? Why do you make fun of the people involved? Hundreds of calls have been received over the past weeks and months at my office. I know - since you did this in the first hearing - that you accused people of being mentally impaired, but not affected by contaminated cabin air ...

I tell you the following: you are not taking the concerns and needs of those affected seriously and you are also not taking  the concerns about the safety of air transport seriously. I hope that you will come to your senses and agree with our proposal so that we can finally take  proper actions to solve this problem. "

Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Vice-President, Alliance 90 / The Greens:

"I conclude the debate.“


"In subparagraph b), the Committee recommends the rejection of the request made by the Bündnis 90 / The GREEN Party in the publication 17/7480 entitled" Preventing contaminated cabin air in aircraft. "[...] the decision was adopted with the consent of the coalition parties, 90 / The GREENs have voted against it and the SPD Party has abstained. "

This was the decision of the People's Representatives to this issue.

December 2012

Great Britain

A quarter of a year later, there was a first death among the pilots who apparently died of the consequences of contaminated cabin air: the (former) British Airways pilot Richard WESTGATE. He begins to experience the same symptoms as Sandy VERMEER (see entry 2008). He is healthy, active in sports and in the heyday of his life, but enroute alot in the cockpit. And then, suddenly, he loses his pilots’ license.

His doctors do not know what to do, can not help and transfer him into psychiatry. He dismisses himself, seeks advice in Holland: with Dr. Michael MULDER, meanwhile practicing doctor and formerly KLM pilot himself. MULDER has long been concerned with the health consequences of contaminated cabin air. Because Richard is afraid he may die, he leaves his body to science, and together with his lawyer he founds the WESTGATE Foundation. WESTGATE dies on 12 December - alone in a hotel in Amsterdam – he doesn’t want  his family to see him in his final stages.

Dr. Michael MULDER, Dr. Frank van de GOOT and Prof. Mohammed ABOU-DONIA traveling from Canada, investigate the body and study the cells. Tim van BEVEREN is also there - it was WESTGATE’s specific wish that his case become public.

The scientists work on the safe side: they give their analysis to a further 6 experts for critical review. Only after this the results are published: Autoantibody markers of neural degeneration are associated with post-mortem histopathological alterations of a neurologically injured pilot.

In English: cardiac inflammation, leukemia, multiple sclerosis and additionally an arsenic and insecticide poisoning. All diseases were excluded during his  lifetime. More under: Affected by contaminated cabin air.


23. March 2013

Fume Event: Hamburg - Las Palmas

Yet again, there is an incident that became known publicly: on a holiday airliner, Condor flight from Hamburg to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. One of the flight attendants, Freya von der ROPP got ‚caught out cold’. The incident has been described in greater detail in: Affected by contaminated cabin air.

It is interesting to see how the airline tries to influence the press (successfully) after such an incident.

In a very first step, one tries to calm the passengers, or strongly advises to not give any information to the media.

Step 2: by targeted reporting to the ‚dpa’ (German press agency) which "largely controls" the reporting of almost all media, with the so called crisis paper of Condor, as it is called, they state:


"Air Quality in Commercial Aircraft"

is the title of a one-day industry conference organized by BG Verkehr on 4th June in Hamburg. The usual participants are invited: airlines and Airbus, the aviation federations as well as the BFU, and 2 representatives of the medical community who preferably work for the statutory accident insurance and carry out industrial research. Also invited are representatives of the two aviation unions VC and UFO.

It goes beyond an exchange of well-known opinions. The organizer, BG Verkehr, can subsequently claim that there are no reliable or recognized findings. This is important (for them): because one does not have to pay disability benefits to those affected.


Problems with the Boeing 757

After Boeing has rejected interview requests from journalists for years, an internal e-mail gives insight into how Boeing seems to deal with the problem. An informer from the USA provides this e-mail to journalist Tim van BEVEREN. Sender: George BATES, a high-ranking engineer at Boeing.

The e-mail had been sent on 26.10.2007 under the subject "Toxicity?? (Poisoning?) ". It highlights problems with Boeing 757’s engines with the RB 211 engines from Rolls-Royce. It is clear from the wording that:

  • "by-products of the oil enter the air stream"
  • "blue smoke was detected in the cabin"
  • "the visibility was restricted" (ed: for the pilots).

One is concerned about the by-products which occur when the engine oil is heated. The conclusion of the e-mail is, that it seems one has to „wait for a tombstone until someone takes the subject seriously. "
On April 14th Tim van BEVEREN asks Rolls-Royce to comment on the allegations. Reply from Rolls-Royce:

 "Rolls-Royce does not want to participate in your coverage."

8. May 2014

"Study on reported events related to the quality of cabin air in commercial aircraft"

is the title of an analysis of incidents’ by the BFU. As far as such incidents were reported, ‚one’ should probably write something.

Meanwhile, the accident investigation authority (BFU) has apparently learned a bit. It now distinguishes 4 cases (p. 69): "Fume events affecting flight safety", then those with "possible effects on occupational safety of crew members", those "affecting the comfort of aircraft passengers" and "Fume events and possible long-term impact on passengers and crews . "

And it states, that there are incidents’ of the first category and that "contaminated cabin air during fume events has caused health damage to passengers and crew" and that "the safety margin was reduced to a point where there was a high accident probability." All on page 69 of a total of 97 pages.

A (small) first step

7. July 2014

WDR film "Nervengift im Flugzeug"

At the usual time, when the broadcaster ARD presents its 'hot' stories to the public under the label "The Story", WDR shows a film that Tim van BEVEREN had started on behalf of the WDR but was not allowed to finish. The experienced journalist has a co-author allocated: a WDR employee, Dr. Roman STUMPF. He has been working for the WDR, but is also a student in Berlin: at the privately financed ‚Quadriga-Hochschule’, the only "university for public relations and public affairs"; as the ‚Berlin Tagesspiegel’ writes: ‚lobby studying’. Sponsors include: companies such as Airbus and Lufthansa.

After 10000 flight kilometers, once around the world with all conceivable types of aircraft, in order to be able to take wipe and carpet/floor samples and 28 days of film editing, an argument arises between the two and the responsible WDR editor Jo ANGERER.

Lufthansa had gotten wind of the film and put the pressure on. WDR editorial director Jo ANGERER can calm Lufthansa down by giving Tim van BEVEREN a subordinate role: "...he has  no influence  in the editing of the film. Film author is ... Dr. Roman STUMPF,  and the film is being edited by me. "

Tim van BEVEREN does not hear about this from his contractor the WDR. Tim van BEVEREN hears about this from Lufthansa's press office.

Now van BEVEREN is out. The credits do not even mention his name (details at Tim van BEVEREN and the WDR documentary "Nervengift im Flugzeug" (Nerve Poison in Aircraft“): Chronicle of a film making, which turned into 2 (different) documentaries)  

3. February 2015

MEP Markus TRESSEL and other members of the Bündnis 90 / THE GREENS ask parliament for a so called ‚parliamentary request’ (see print media 18/3949) concerning "contaminated cabin air in commercial aircraft". TRESSEL reports a sudden increase in reports of contaminated cabin air. Within a year, the number of reported events quadrupled: "It is further evidence that incidents with contaminated cabin air occur far more frequently than initially indicated by the Federal Government in numerous answers to (our) ‚small inquiries’."

The answers from the Federal Government show that the Boeing 757 heads the list of aircraft types in which fume events occur. In Germany the Boeing 757 is only operated by Condor.

However, the Federal Government does not see any need for action. „It fulfills with all its authorities all the requirements arising from international regulations.“

16. February 2015

Great Britain

Regulations and a procedures exist in Great Britain that do not exist in Germany. If a cause of death is not clear, a so-called Coroner investigates - independently and with all POA. He does not have to take anyone or anything in to consideration.

As a result of Richard WESTGATE’s death (see entry December 2012), Sheriff PAYNE writes a "report to prevent future deaths", which he sends to British Airways’s CEO and the CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) . He is worried about:

  • "Organophosphate components present in the cabin air"
  • "There is no monitoring"
  • "Occupants of aircraft cabin are exposed to these compounds"
  • "There is no consideration of genetic differences in humans." and
  • "That health problems of those who control the aircraft could lead to the death of the occupants."

This report and the responses of the accused will be publicly released in April 2017.

15. July 2015

Film premier: "Unfiltered – Breathed-In"

After Tim van BEVEREN had been exploited by the WDR,  he created his own film, using information and materials that were obviously too hot for the WDR. The largest part of the material from the WDR film are in his own rights as it is.

The documentary with the subtitle "The Truth about the Aerotoxic Syndrome" is listed in a small cinema. Representatives of the aviation business did not want to attend the discussion following the film presentation. Also, none of the authorities as the magazine ‚Cicero’ remarks.

Follwoing this the film goes on a journey and will participate in film festivals;  he win’s several awards. The 131-minute long film is also available as DVD: for 15.00 Euro in the TvBMedia webshop.


Aviation safety in the year 2016

Statistically speaking, it is one of the safest years in terms of air traffic accidents. 325 death victims from 3.7 billion air travelers worldwide. Statistically, the accident risk is 1 in 11.4 million. A positive value, even if each dead person is one too many.

On the other hand, global flight movements are enormous: the density of preferred routes and flights has grown enormously as can be seen on; for example:

The reason for this security is constant prevention. At least in those areas in which malfunctions, breakdowns or accidents are immediately perceptible to everyone.

In the case of problems, unsolved security questions or incidents’ that are not quite as frequent from the point of view of the aviation industry and which are not as conspicuous as fume events are for passengers, it is different. Here, the industry - so far - does not see any real pressure to act. The silent collusion between the aviation sector and the authorities seems to work well. And because the (mass) media focus their reporting on current, directly visible and, if possible, dramatic things, this problem is safe for aviation.

Safety for your health?

This is different for those who are negatively affected. At the Institute for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine at the University of Göttingen (UMG), Europe has the only "Fume Event Consultation Clinic" since 2014. PD Dr. med Astrid HEUTELBECK researches, teaches and and treats patients who are struggling with the consequences of the so-called aerotoxic syndrome, specifically the health problems due to contaminated cabin air.

More and more patients present. At present there are about 350 of them, of which 70% are cabin crew, 25% pilots and in the mean time also the first frequent fliers (frequent flyers, 5%) arrive..

Astrid HEUTELBACH, a recognized pulmonary specialist, has not only the necessary laboratory infrastructure at the University Hospital of Göttingen, to analyse even the slightest chemical trace in blood and urine samples, but also has a cascade impactor that can measure particles not only in the micro-range but in the nanometer range (more about scientific knowledge under Health, Science and Sconomic Interests).

In the first three months about 1200 emergency calls were made. In the mean time, the ambulance is so overloaded that it can not take up any new patients until April 2017. In this area, "safety in flight" looks different.


At the beginning of the year, ‚DokZentrum’ opens a new blog: the Aero-Toxic log book: in German and also in English: The target: to document what is happening. Or what is not happening. And why not.

Tips & Information help us.

The Federal Government, in particular the DOBRINDT ministry, does not want to know about many incidents with fume events. Thus the information following a parliamentary inquiry by the GREEN’s deputy Markus TRESSEL in the Bundestag (view by clicking the active picture).

For example, TRESSEL wanted to know how the responsible authority BFU can ensure that "in cases where there is a time delay in the nervous system, the lung and/or other organ disturbances, have access to all information relevant to the examination (eg cockpit voice- recorder, recorders, flight data recorders, etc.) which are necessary for an investigation pursuant to regulation (EU) 99612010, Art. 2, 17. d) in conjunction with Art. 5 (1) and (2)? "

The Ministry's reply to this question 1f):

"In principle, the BFU uses all available information and sources. Pursuant to Article 9 (1) of Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 and Article 7 (1) (1) of the LuftVO, air traffic accidents and serious disturbances must be reported immediately to the BFU. In order to be able to take action at any time, the BFU can be reached 24 hours a day. "

Means in plain English: The BFU can not guarantee this, because the data is not available any longer after a certain period of time.

This is also clear, following question No 2. : Markus TRESSEL wanted to know which types of aircraft are particularly affected by fume event incidents, differentiated by reports, disturbances, serious disturbances and accidents.

Answer: this is not done. But the "reports" of fume events are registered. The attached table on page 3 shows that the BFU is not up-to-date with the reports. A total of 11 reports have been documented in this statistics for the year 2008. However, under "Incidents": incidents, which mostly do not appear in official statistics, we have found that the WDR had discovered - 121 such incidents in the course of its research.

Which means: the official numbers are absolutely good for nothing.

And this is also underlined by the ministry itself - apparently without noticing - with a further answer. The BMVI, for example, reports that in 2016 about 830 notifications of potential victims, resp. potentially injured people have been received by the responsible "Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr" ( = BG = transport association/insurer). 

To question No 11 from GREEN’s deputy TRESSEL: „In how many of these cases were files and information related to disturbances / incidents’ of  and with contaminated air  consulted, if yes with what result, if no, why not? "the answer is - similar to the Ministry's answer to the" Dieselgate "affair:

"There is an intensive professional exchange between BG Verkehr and BFU as well as with other authorities and institutions."

In other words, all BMVI employees, including the political leaders, are doing their daily work. The BMVI knows little about what happens outside our offices. To be exact: nothing.

(JL, TobSp)