Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, Strongly Supports
Legislation To Improve Cabin Air Quality
The Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, representing 42,000 flight attendants at 27 carriers, supports efforts to improve airline cabin air quality. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Tom Campbell (R-CA) have introduced legislation that would establish a minimum fresh air standard on commercial flights (H.R. 2856). This legislation would significantly decrease the health related dangers to flight attendants and frequent fliers.
Concern for the health of flight attendants and the public has increased as a result of various studies documenting poor cabin air quality on board commercial aircraft. As the level of fresh air has decreased in the cabin, flight attendants and passengers are at risk of exposure to toxins and viruses. Because flight attendants are moving about the cabin as they perform their duties, they take in an increased volume of air, exposing these safety professionals to the greatest risk.
Flight attendants who routinely work in cabins with poor air quality complain of respiratory problems and other health difficulties such as dizziness, severe headaches and loss of balance. For example, 192 flight attendants at one AFA-represented airline, working on MD-80 airplanes, reported 233 separate incidents of headaches, blurred vision and other health problems. Some flight attendants were too ill to perform their safety duties while others have been permanently disabled.
Despite hundreds of reported incidents of health problems relating to cabin air, the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to take any action. When air quality problems occur, there is very little protection and recourse available to those who work within this environment.
The 103rd Congress acted to require the FAA to undertake a long-term study into air quality problems on board aircraft. Unfortunately, the FAA has not completed a comprehensive air quality study. In the 104th Congress, similar legislation to H.R. 2856 was introduced in both the House and Senate by Representative Nadler and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
Recently, the FAA changed its view regarding the problems associated with cabin air quality by amending the regulation concerning ventilation rates. However, the new regulation does not apply to the existing fleet of aircraft. Airborne viruses, humidity levels and ozone continue to be problems on aircraft. These hazards are aggravated by new aircraft that use more recirculated air. Presently, new model aircraft provide half fresh air and half recirculated air that is freshened only every six or seven minutes.
AFA strongly supports Congressional efforts to establish a minimum ventilation standard of 20 cubic feet of fresh air per minute per person in the cabin. The legislation would also require the monitoring of air filters, ozone and humidity. Finally, the legislation would establish a toll free number at the FAA for individuals to report cabin air quality incidents.