Published on Monday, January 28, 2013

Lawyers threaten BA over death of two pilots

Lawyers are threatening to sue British Airways after the death of two pilots who had complained of years of exposure to toxic cabin fumes.

Both Karen Lysakowska, 43 and Richard Westgate, also 43, who were buried this month, believed they had been poisoned by the toxic oil fumes that can contaminate cabin air on passenger planes and which regularly forces pilots to don oxygen masks in order to breathe, reports the Sunday Express.

Before he died Richard Westgate instructed his lawyer, Frank Cannon to sue BA for alleged breach of health and safety guidelines.

Mr Cannon said BA is liable under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations because they claim the airline fails to monitor the quality of air on board planes.

The lawyer is now trying to force a groundbreaking British inquest into Richard's death in which BA would be asked questions about aerotoxic syndrome.

Mr Cannon said: "I see this as an impending tsunami for the airline industry—it's been hushed for and ignored for so long."

The lawyers say they are on the cusp of proving in a court of law the existence of "aerotoxic syndrome", a chronic physical and neurological condition they predict will one day be seen as "the new asbestos".

The air enters the cabin unfiltered where any oil leak at high temperature can cause the release of a dangerous mix of compounds, including potentially toxic organophosphates, reports the Sunday Express.

It is reported that Civil Aviation Authority records show oxygen masks are being donned by pilots and crew at the rate of at least five times a week to combat suspected "fume events".

Richard had become a commercial pilot in 1998, flying with smaller airlines before joining BA in 2007, but he voluntarily grounded himself in 2011 after suffering whiplash in a car crash.

By that time he had already become concerned about his health and memory, suffering persistent headaches, chronic fatigue, loss of confidence and mood swings.

Ms Lysakowska had pleaded with her bosses at BA to address the issue after being grounded with ill health in 2005.

Writing to them in 2006, she warned: "My objective is to get well and carry on flying and not enter a protracted legal battle because of the impact exposure to contaminated air has had on my life but if I have to I will."

A spokesman for BA said: "Our thoughts are with the families of the two pilots at this very sad time and we offer our sincere condolences.

"We are not aware of any legal claims relating to the two individuals.

"It would be inappropriate for us to comment or speculate upon the individuals' cause of death."

A spokesman for the CAA said: "The CAA takes passenger and flight crew safety very seriously, and we will always work to identify any potential safety hazards on board aircraft. The Cranfield University research, published in May 2011 and funded by the Department for Transport, found no evidence of pollutants occurring in cabin air at levels exceeding acceptable health and safety standards and guidelines.

"In addition, research carried out by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, published in April 2012 and also funded by the Department for Transport, found no evidence of levels of organophosphate compounds sufficient to cause health effects in aircraft cabins.   

"The Government's Committee on Toxicity, which carried out an extensive review of all of the available evidence in 2007, has been asked to review the latest research and will make recommendations for any further research if necessary."

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  • But surely...

    ...passengers breath the same air as the pilots, do they not? So should we not also be concerned about toxic fumes? Of course, pilots will fly more often than most passengers - but frequent flyers who have maybe clocked up 40 years worth of trips will certainly have breathed a tidy few lungfuls of air.

    By Richard English, Monday, January 28, 2013

  • Known Planes

    Over the years there have been pointers that the Boeing 757 and the BAE 146 suffer from toxic fumes. Other planes have been commented on

    By Paul Neaves, Monday, January 28, 2013

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