On Sept. 19, 2019, Representative John Garamendi (D-CA-3) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to our CEO, Robin Hayes, demanding answers as to what steps the airline is taking to address, identify, and prevent toxic fume events.
The letter comes on the heels of a “disturbing pattern” of toxic fume events aboard JetBlue aircraft over the past few months. Many did not make headlines, but at least one JetBlue aircraft reportedly made an emergency landing and at least three separate flight crews have gone to the hospital due to toxic cabin air. All these crewmembers tested positive for increased levels of carbon monoxide and some have suffered additional health problems, including significant issues which required hospitalization.
“These events pose a significant health risk to in-flight crewmembers and passengers – placing your employees and customers in harm’s way,” reads the letter. “We would like to note that the proper term for these events is either ‘fume event’ or ‘cabin air safety event’. There have been reports that your company is reclassifying these as ‘odor events’ in an apparent attempt to skirt Federal Aviation Administration reporting standards, as well as state and local workers’ compensation laws. This raises significant doubt regarding JetBlue’s intention to faithfully adhere to existing health, safety, and labor law. We trust that you will ensure that your company is complying with these laws.”
TWU International President John Samuelsen stated, “Thanks to Sen. Blumenthal and Rep. Garamendi for taking the lead on this important, yet somehow overlooked public health issue. It’s not an outrageous request that the flying public and in-flight crewmembers know if the air they are breathing onboard is toxic or not. No one should be subject to these health hazards.”
TWU Air Division Director Mike Mayes added, “These toxic fume incidents have been happening for far too long, jeopardizing the safety of our members and the public. We can’t thank Sen. Blumenthal and Rep. Garamendi enough for speaking out and championing this cause.”
What is Toxic Cabin Air?
Because the atmosphere surrounding aircraft at 40,000 feet above sea level is too thin to breathe, modern aircraft heat air from around the wings over the engines and then compress that air before circulating it into the cabin. When this process of “bleeding” air malfunctions, TWU crew member and the traveling public can be exposed to toxins which cause severe nerve damage, cancer, and other health issues.
When this process malfunctions, engine oil, hydraulic fuel and other aircraft fluids can leak into the system. These liquids can become gas or “toxic cabin air,” turning into nerve agents that can cause respiratory, neurological and psychiatric symptoms – and can be absorbed both by inhalation and through the skin. Repeated or prolonged exposure to these agents – such as that endured by flight attendants, frequent air travelers – can have devastating health effects.
Click here to read more about the TWU’s Toxic Cabin Air Campaign.