What To Do If You Encounter Contaminated Cabin Air
There are many sources of smoke, haze, and odors (fumes) in the aircraft cabin and flight deck, such as galleys, carry-ons, lavatories, and electrical systems. Some types of contaminated air are just unpleasant, but others are toxic. The aircraft air supply system can be a source of smoke/fumes when it gets contaminated with engine oil, hydraulic fluid, exhaust/fuel, deicing fluid, and ozone. Of these, oil and hydraulic fluid smoke/fumes are the most toxic. Oil fumes may smell like dirty socks. Other descriptions include musty/moldy, old cheese, chemicals, and even electrical-like.
Most incidents with poor cabin air quality “only” involve exposure to fumes (odor) and not haze/smoke. Still, depending on the type of contaminants in the air, “just fumes” can still be toxic. If you think that you may have been exposed to either oil or hydraulic fluid-contaminated ventilation air, follow the steps below.
What To Do
AFA Contact Information
Yvette Satterlee, ASHSC Vice Chairperson
(206) 457-2010, Extension 1101
Seth Heiple, ASHSC Chairperson
(206) 457-2010, Extension 1100
(206) 457-2010, Extension 7
Information For Your Doctor
If Oil/Hydraulic Fumes
High-temperature oil/hydraulic fluid fumes can contaminate aircraft air supply system from engines/APU. Give your doctor the relevant safety data sheet (SDS) [oil: Mobil Jet Oil II; hydraulic fluid: Chevron Hyjet IVa+] AND Health Care Providers’ Guide. AFA can fax these to ER/doctor upon request.
Alaska Airlines uses:
- Mobil Jet Oil II engine oil which contains tricresyl phosphates, per SDS; and
- Chevron Hyjet IVa+ hydraulic fluid which contains tributyl phosphates, per SDS.
Both types of fumes can contain carbon monoxide (CO). Notify doctor if you took oxygen (recommended) because it can influence the CO blood test. Information regarding blood tests to discuss with doctor can be found at http://ashsd.afacwa.org/docs/docinfo.pdf.