Something in the Air

Can polluted air on board planes damage your health? This episode of Panorama talks to pilots who have almost passed out at the controls and passengers who say they’ve been made ill by toxic fumes. The air breathed on airliners is drawn past the engines. It can become polluted by any leaks of engine oil.

‘Fume events’ are rare but there are no accurate figures of just how many occur each year. Panorama wanted to discover what was really in the air passengers, crew and pilots breathe on planes. Swabs and air samples during two UK flights will be analysed by toxicologist, Professor Christiaan Van Netten on Monday’s programme.

Toxic Fumes
Reporter Gerry Northam also meets a family who believe they were made ill by fumes on board a plane. Samantha and Pete Sabatino and their three children boarded a holiday charter flight to Florida. During the flight, six-year-old Emily complained of a funny smell then vomited violently.

In the following fortnight, other family members became ill. Mum Samantha was hospitalised. On the return flight, she made a list of 31 passengers who had been similarly affected after the flight out. They believe toxic fumes had contaminated the air on board. Sixteen of them are now planning legal action.

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