Campaign launches for cleaner air on passenger jets

A global campaign launched this week is appealing to the aviation industry to equip its passenger jets with better filtration systems. Launched by the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE), the Clean Air Campaign identifies a design flaw in many jet aircraft that risks contaminating the air inside a cabin and endangering passengers and crew.

The GCAQE reveals that the breathing air provided to passengers onboard comes directly from the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) of the aircraft’s engine. This unfiltered air – or “bleed air” – is bled from the hot compression section within the plane’s engine and carries with it a risk of contamination from synthetic jet engine oils and hydraulic fluids.

These synthetic oils and hydraulic fluids contain organophosphates, which are not fit for human consumption or breathing. They carry with them several grave risks to health, including a risk of cancer, infertility and other neurological effects. The GCAQE also suggests that passenger safety is often compromised further due to crew being impaired due to inhaling toxic air – and many former employees have had to retire early due to the long-term health implications of such exposure.

Over the past 20 years, air incident departments have made more than 50 recommendations for change based on these risks. However, little improvement has been made to the air filtration process, and aircraft continue to fly without any warning systems to alert passengers of a possible contamination.

The GCAQE hopes its campaign will bring awareness to unsuspecting passengers who are frequently told by airlines that the quality of air provided in cabins is better than that of many houses or offices. It also hopes to persuade airline regulators and airline manufacturers to install adequate air infiltration equipment into aircraft, along with air quality warning systems for passengers.

The campaign, which is supported by representatives of more than one million aviation employees, has produced two videos to help educate the industry and general public on this problem. Available to view in more than 40 languages, both films can be found on the GCAQE’s Clean Air Campaign website –

Jenny has been reporting on small business issues since 2001 where she held a number of freelance positions across the leading SME publications in the UK. Specialist subjects included SME financing and tax.

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