Last updated: 04:02 PM ET, Tue June 09 2015

British Airlines Face Allegations Of Toxic Fumes

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | June 09, 2015

British Airlines Face Allegations Of Toxic Fumes

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Saying they were poisoned by breathing in a mixture of engine oil and other toxic chemicals, a group of 17 former and current workers at British airlines are planning to file suit over personal injury claims.

The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) first reported the story. The airlines were not named.

Unite, a United Kingdom-based union representing 20,000 aviation workers, is funding the cases for individuals who say exposure to this contaminated cabin air had a detrimental effect on their health.

Unite is asking for a public inquiry into the case, but the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says incidents of smoke or fumes on planes are rare and there is no evidence of long-term health effects, according to the BBC.

However, one former pilot for a British airline appeared recently with Victoria Derbyshire, a popular newscaster who has her own talk show on BBC2, and he said he was affected by the fumes in 2014 while attempting to land at Birmingham Airport.

"Almost instantly myself and the captain became very unwell and decided it was bad enough to place our oxygen masks on," the pilot said on the show. We didn't declare a mayday — mostly due to not being able to think of the words needed to say — and ended up auto-landing the plane and simply briefing, 'Whoever is alive or conscious, pull back the thrust levels after touchdown.' It was that serious."

Derbyshire also apparently received reports submitted to the CAA that show 251 separate incidents of fumes or smoke inside a large passenger jet operated by a British airline over a 13-month period. An illness was reported in 104 of the 251 cases, and on at least 28 of those flights, oxygen was administered, the BBC said.

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