Peoppe affected by fume events - six examples from UK, Germany and Switzerland

1997

Bearnairdine BAUMANN or BEAUMONT / Lufthansa

Bearnairdine BAUMANN/BEAUMONT flew 20 years, from 1977 to 1997. Most recently as chief stewardess with Deutsche Lufthansa (LH). Originally she flew on Boeing aircraft, but in the later years she was on Airbus A 319 and 320. She regularly flew long distances, often to and from Asia, Africa and Australia. In order to prevent the introduction of bacteria and/or other small crawling or flying animals, the airplanes were (are) 'cleaned' with insecticides shortly before landing in the respective countries.

The slow and creeping process

This concerned substances such as permethrin, DDT or even the highly toxic lindane. The latter has been off the market for quite some time, and since 2015 it has been classified as "carcinogenic" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Six years earlier, many countries had already included lindane, also DDT in the list of undesirable because dangerous chemicals at the so-called Stockholm Convention. It is true that the problem of lindane had already become known in the wood preservative litigation cases in the early 1990s. But this did not prevent manufacturers or users from using the substance for their own purposes. The victims are - as usual - ordinary mortals.

Bearnairdine BAUMANN is no exception. For her, it all started bit by bit: by cumulative effects from exposure. First she developed allergies she had never had problems with before, then sudden tinnitus, cognitive problems, balance problems, regular severe headaches, insomnia, palpitations and fluctuating blood pressure, first signs of hearing loss, muscle pain - the 'whole programme'. More and more often she had to get off the plane on arrival somewhere in the world, call in sick and later try again. Until it didn't work out anymore – not for the best of reasons did it work: everyone whose job is flying loves their job and identifies with their work, whether it be in the cockpit or as cabincrew.

In 1997 the time had come: she was declared medically unfit to fly.

Bearnairdine changed country and climate, moved to Ireland and settled in a remote area. After three years the first symptoms subsided and her health and sickness improved.

The real incident

At the end of October 2010 she took a flight from Dublin to Frankfurt on a Lufthansa aircraft, this time as a passenger. And then it happened: a fume event; not in the air, but on the ground: While taxiing and waiting for the parking position, the pilots were „revving“ the engines of their Airbus in order to maintain the bleedair pressure. As the seals clearly did not function properly, the fumes with substances produced during the pyrolysis of the turbine oil were released into the cabin air -, as always happens when such an incident occurs.

Her body reacted instantly. Bearnairdine BAUMANN immediately developed a headache, nausea, dizziness and palpitations. Still, she made it home.

The next day her 'old' symptoms returned, but much worse than before. The tinnitus, which used to be just slightly annoying got much worse, the headaches and dizziness became almost unbearable, and the hearing loss became massive. She could hardly walk 2 steps without taking a break. The symptoms lasted for a full three years without improvement.

The experts

It is now Bearnairdine BAUMANN begins to figure out how all this could be connected and what might be going on in her body. She consults doctors, goes to renowned experts:

  • Prof. Mohamed ABOU-DONIA at Duke University in the USA, an international expert in the field of toxic effects on nerve cells, diagnoses a severe injury to the central nervous system. Triggers: stored toxic substances, e.g. the residues of so-called tricresyl phosphates contained in turbine oil. But also other chemical compounds from the chemical group of organophosphates, which also includes several insecticides and pesticides. We have explained what happens in the human organism in a three-level graphic representation.
  • Dr. Holger von STETTEN from Germany diagnosed a chemical sensitivity as well as a decrease in reflexes and hearing.
  • Prof. Dr. Jeremy RAMSDEN from England, specialist in nanotechnology (e.g. at the University of Cranfield) and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry, attested in his expert opinion an "Organophosphorus ester-induced delayed neurotoxicity", OPIDN for short.

Now only one thing helped: fresh air around the clock for Bearnairdine BAUMANN. As she has both a British and a Swiss passport (she grew up in Switzerland), she went back to her second home up into the mountains, of which there are plenty. At an altitude of 1,500 metres one is simultaneously exposed to a specific air pressure and slightly reduced oxygen saturation.

The Montreal Convention

Various laws in Germany oblige employers to offer their employees a "safe" workplace that is free of hazards and/or harmful substances. We have documented how this is achieved at Fume Events with many examples. And also, why it is the way it is: What the technical problem is (What is different when flying at a height of 10 km?) and why the "statutory accident insurance" does not step in (Das Schattenreich: a monopoly organises a cartel of secrecy - in German only). Bearnairdine BEAUMONT has also had experience with this.

It happened to her again, this time as a passenger. In 1999, all airlines signed the "Montreal Convention" which regulates the liability of "air carriers" in cases where luggage or passengers themselves suffer damage. Up to 120,000 Euros are granted in such cases. Lufthansa has also signed this agreement.

Bearnairdine BAUMANN wants to sue. For compensation of her medical expenses.

The Irish judicial system

BB collected receipts and documents, commissioned a young lawyer who showed commitment, introduced her to the problem and, upon the advice of her lawyer, commissioned several experts to examine her health and document the renewed health problems. And explain or diagnose them medically and toxicologically. That cost about 15,000 euros - not including lawyer and "barrister" fees.

"Barristers" in Ireland - as in England - are so-called senior lawyers who conduct the court proceedings and are called in by junior lawyers who themselves only do the research and legal paperwork (briefs, petitions, etc.). The junior lawyers do not usually have any experience of appearing in court and it is not for everyone to exchange legal blows with opponents in front of judges.

The judge who is not (no longer) present

The (first) commissioned barrister puts down the case for reasons of illness. Then, Bearnairdine BAUMANN herself becomes ill again and asks for a postponement of the trial.

The judge refuses. The lawyer shrugs her shoulders, a new barrister cannot be found. When an official exchange with the other party, Lufthansa, takes place four weeks before the start of the negotiations, the young lawyer fails completely: she cannot answer questions, has apparently not read the expert opinions she herself suggested and has not read the opposing statements either. Because time is pressing, Bearnairdine BAUMANN asks the law firm to provide the young lawyer with an experienced legal advisor as barrister, but this does not work out. Instead, the law firm signals to her that it would be better if BAUMANN withdrew her lawsuit.

For Bearnairdine BAUMANN this is out of the question.

A call from the defendant’s law firm that the other side wants to sit down at the round table. Hope rises. But the offer turns out to be a mistake - a method to wear down the plaintiff?

A third barrister comes and goes again - immediately. Without explanation. Meanwhile, BAUMANN is urgently waiting for a document from Lufthansa, the technical worksheet. She has been waiting for a long time. Then it arrives: a blank sheet of paper, scanned and completed with the remark: "... there is nothing entered."

The lawyer shrugs her shoulders again that there is nothing she can do - two weeks before the trial. At last BAUMANN manages to engage a new (the fourth) barrister.

BAUMANN is flying to Dublin again, as are her three experts from the USA, Great Britain and Germany whom she had commissioned (see above). All of them will be in court at 10 a.m. sharp. The new (fourth) barrister hurries towards her, saying there is a problem: "We don't have a judge!

It's no use, no judge can be found who has this procedure on his list. They should all go back to the hotel, one would see ...

So it goes back and forth, the new barrister exchanges information with the opposing lawyer from Lufthansa, it is now the second day and this time there seems to be a hint that perhaps an out-of-court settlement can be reached, then again not, and then again yes, but without a real number being mentioned, which then becomes smaller and smaller until their barrister signals that "there won't be as much as indicated".

On day 3 of „no judge present“, the same game. No judge. The discussion goes back and forth and then the spectacular and final offer: "You will definitely lose the case, but we will be generous. We will not charge you for the costs we have incurred, but we will not provide any service and you will drop the case". And further: "If you do not accept this generous offer, we will send you our full bill, which will be around 120.000 Euro and we will sue for it if necessary".

Bearnairdine BAUMANN says no. Her experts, who have been there for several days, will have to leave without having done anything. 

A few weeks later and a new date - with a judge. Because Bearnairdine BAUMANN has so far had to pay considerable expenses, including around 12,000 Euros for the experts who travelled to the event, she asks that at least the experts have their say via video conference. The new judge refuses. If the experts did not appear in person, the hearing would not take place, and she would consider this as contempt of court.

Bearnairdine BAUMANN has sleepless nights, thinking back and forth, but she does not have the money to pay for everything again. The barrister, who would have continued the case, had quoted the fee for himself and a junior lawyer: around 60,000 Euros.

BAUMANN must give up. And announces to the now existing judge that she would withdraw her complaint.

And so it happens.

If Bearnairdine BAUMANN had to fly again, which she no longer does, she would only do it wearing an activated carbon mask - knowing full well that this does not really help in an emergency. The photo here was taken as part of the documentary film "Unfiltered Breathed In“(see above), when she and the camera team flew to the court hearing in Dublin: in a Lufthansa plane. More about this film, how the concept was developed and what finally came out of it is described under Tim van BEVEREN and the WDR documentary "Nervengift im Flugzeug": Chronicle of a shooting that turned into 2 different films.

Bearnairdine BAUMANN flies only with an activated carbon mask. From the film "Unfiltered Inhaled" by Tim van Beveren.

The networker

In the meantime Bearnairdine BAUMANN learned: Nothing comes from nothing. If you want to defend yourself against a superior force, you have to do something. Otherwise nothing happens. Since it is usually only individuals who are affected by health problems and usually only then understand why something like this could happen, it is important to network with each other. For example, to exchange experience and information. Because only then does it make sense to think about further activities.

For example, in 2011 BAUMANN voluntarily established a network for people affected by contaminated cabin air, which she manages via the Internet: www.aerotoxicteam.com. And on  herFacebook page "Global Aerotoxic Team" she documents fume events and shares information: www.facebook.com/aerotoxicglobalnetwork.

In Tim van BEVEREN's documentary "Unfiltered Breathed In" (see above) she is one of the protagonists (see screenshot). She receives letters from thousands of people worldwide. She is currently in contact with 500 people affected. Today she lives in the Swiss Alps, because the clear mountain air is good for her body.

Under her name Bernairdine BEAUMONT, BAUMANN published the book "The Air I Breathe - It's Classified" in 2015.


March 22, 2013

Freya von der ROPP, formerly Condor

"We love flying" is the airline's motto.

The stewardesses do too; otherwise, they would not have chosen this profession - the pay is meagre. Members of the flying staff see being a flight attendant as their central purpose in life; they do it out of conviction and with dedication.

Among them: Freya von der ROPP, single mother of two children.

Condor / Flight 5944 / a Boeing 757 from Hamburg en route to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. Onboard an 8-person crew and 242 passengers.

Stewardess Freya von der ROPP notices a strange smell in the cabin during the approach to Las Palmas (Gran Canaria). Her colleague also smells it. The smell gets stronger and stronger, and Freya von der ROPP and her colleague suddenly feel sick. Both are overcome by nausea, headaches and feel numb. The co-pilot also suddenly has problems: he feels terrible, but he can put on his oxygen mask unlike everyone else in the plane.

The flight attendants and the passengers have no access to pure air or oxygen. The same air comes out of the so-called "oxygen masks" shown to the passengers before take-off and explained how they drop down from the holder at the top in case of an emergency, as in the cabin. They are primarily intended for pressure equalisation, if necessary. Not for oxygen supply. Not on any aircraft. Real oxygen masks and cylinders are only in the cockpit.

Safety Sheet - Boeing 737

The aircraft can land safely in Las Palmas despite problems in the cockpit and with 2 flight attendants.

Condor maintenance instructions in Frankfurt orders an inspection by the Spanish ground technician at the airport. No defect is found. The captain decides to test the engines and the APU to check if anything is coming out of the air conditioning system.

Von der ROPP and her colleague are afraid that the smell will reappear. To ensure that the smell is coming from the air ducts and on the captain's instructions, von der Ropp stands directly under a nozzle and inhales. The smell does indeed come from the duct. Von der ROPP wants to tell the pilots and goes toward the cockpit. After two rows she collapses, almost faints. Her body is failing. She is seized as in a trance by the thought that this must be what it feels like to be gassed. She can't feel her body any more, it's numb, yet it tingles, she has an insane headache, and she feels very sick. Her heart is also racing.

Her colleagues immediately administer first aid and lay her in a row of seats. Now her thoughts are only about her children. She feels so tired that all she wants to do is sleep. Then the

the odyssee begins:

hey have never heard of contaminated cabin air. And therefore they have no idea what to do. The doctors are just as helpless as the two Condor flight attendants.

Only in the third hospital do they come up with the idea of taking a blood sample, but they can't find anything in it - simply because they don't know what to look for apart from the usual markers. Her reflexes are tested, and she is x-rayed. Von der ROPP has no more reflexes in her knee - the knee does not react (any more).

The two flight attendants reach their hotel late at night. But they are not feeling better. Freya von der ROPP is alone in her room, anxious and can only walk shakily. Afraid of what might happen to her, she does not lock her room door. She is fearful that she will not wake up.

Return to Hamburg i.e. Berlin: no improvement

Thirty-six hours after the Fume Event incident, Freya von der ROPP is back in Hamburg. Only now a blood sample is taken and stored frozen for almost half a year. Human biomonitoring (HBM), a procedure that can detect toxic substances in blood and urine, is not yet being discussed at this time. It would be too late anyway because of many of the toxic substances produced during a fume event and enter the human organism quickly evaporate and/or are excreted. Some of them are practically undetectable or can only be detected with great effort (e.g. tricresyl phosphates, more on this at www.ansTageslicht.de/Tricresylphosphate). And so, after another six months, practically no foreign substances can be detected in the blood.

Toxic substances are so-called hit-and-run compounds, as toxicologists call them: Once they have entered the body, they do their damage and are practically undetectable afterwards, especially when some time has passed.

When von der ROPP returns home to Berlin, she goes to the famous Charité hospital for further treatment. But they cannot help her. The symptoms of the mother of two remain unchanged: in the afternoon at the latest, she becomes fatigued so that she cannot do anything. She feels very restricted in her life and her daily routine. The uncertainty about what will happen next is also very hard for her. 

She attends physiotherapy three times a week. She is busy every day, making all the appointments that are supposed to help her recover. This is her current 'job' - she has lost her job on the plane: she is unfit to fly.

Her application for occupational disability and pension payment at the Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr (which is financed by the airlines, among others) is unsuccessful: it is rejected. Reasons given are: her symptoms are the result of hyperventilation. If there is another reason: then it would be de-icing fluid that could be the trigger for this incident. In fact, de-icing fluid was found during the technical examination. But the de-icing fluid is not toxic per se. You can only smell it. However, if it becomes hot or gets into the heat of a turbine or auxiliary power unit (APU), the glycol it contains also becomes hot. Suppose it gets into the air conditioning system. In that case, it could act as a solvent: All the chemical substances (some of them toxic) deposited in the branched pipe system would dissolve and get into the cabin air. Nothing definite is known to this day.  

The aircraft with the registration "D-ABOC

When the Spanish investigating authority released the affected aircraft, it flew back to Germany - empty, without passengers. On the return flight: two more fume events. The flight crew has to put on their oxygen masks several times.

The BFU, which is responsible in Germany, helps their Spanish colleagues under pressure with their investigation report and therefore publish it before the German side has investigated everything. It turns out that the aircraft "D-ABOC" had a total of 25 such fume incidents in the previous four years. "25" that were officially reported which is not the rule (more under "Incidents": incidents that mostly do not appear in the official statistics).

And in the same year (2013) there will be five more such incidents: officially reported.

The dispute with the "Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr", the German Liability Insurance of the Airlines

In October 2015, three years after the incident, the application for compensation is rejected by the German "Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr". Freya von der ROPP now has to take legal action: at the Berlin Social Court, Ref: S 68 U 281/16.

In September 2020, i.e. in year 7, there will be a trial. For the first time, an official witness appears: the BFU "investigator" of the incident from 7 years ago. He confirms the incident and can explain that fume events are still an unsolved problem today: an unsolved technical problem and an unsolved legal problem for the injured parties. Because they now have to prove in "full evidence" that what is obvious can also be legally proven before a social court with one hundred per cent causality.

In Germany, this is virtually impossible.

The proceedings continue: The judge decides in favour of a new expert opinion, which is now to examine and evaluate the newly occurred health damages.

More about the current progress of these proceedings in the Aerotoxic Logbook under the tag "Justice and Fume Event" and the Fume-Event-Files in the chapter Fume Events: Judgements and Courts (NOT ONLINE YET).