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What are the symptoms of exposure?

Symptoms of exposure reported by crews, passengers and doctors are grouped into what is referred to as ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome’

AEROTOXIC SYNDROME C.Winder, S.Michaelis.(2005).'Aircraft Air Quality Malfunction Incidents - Crew Effects from Toxic Exposures on Aircraft'. Air Quality in airplane cabins and similar enclosed spaces - The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry - Publisher: Springer-Verlag GmbH. August 2005

Short Term Symptoms

  • neurotoxic symptoms: blurred or tunnel vision, nystagmus, disorientation, shaking and tremors, loss of balance and vertigo, seizures, loss of consciousness, parathesias;
  • neuropsychological symptoms: memory impairment, headache, light-headedness, dizziness, confusion and feeling intoxicated;
  • gastro-intestinal symptoms: nausea, vomiting;
  • respiratory symptoms: cough, breathing difficulties (shortness of breath), tightness in chest, respiratory failure requiring oxygen;
  • cardiovascular symptoms: increased heart rate and palpitations;
  • irritation of eyes, nose and upper airways.

Long Term Symptoms

  • neurotoxic symptoms: numbness (fingers, lips, limbs), parathesias;
  • neuropsychological symptoms: memory impairment, forgetfulness, lack of co-ordination, severe headaches, dizziness, depression, sleep disorders;
  • gastro-intestinal symptoms: salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
  • respiratory symptoms: breathing difficulties (shortness of breath), tightness in chest, respiratory failure, susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections;
  • cardiovascular symptoms: chest pain, increased heart rate and palpitations;
  • skin symptoms: skin itching and rashes, skin blisters (on uncovered body parts), hair loss;· irritation of eyes, nose and upper airways;
  • sensitivity: signs of immunosupression, chemical sensitivity leading to acquired or multiple chemical sensitivity;
  • general: weakness and fatigue (leading to chronic fatigue), exhaustion, hot flashes, joint pain, muscle weakness and pain.

IMPORTANT: If you experience any of the symptoms of exposure during or after flight (may be weeks later) it is important to inform your doctors if you believe you may have had a chemical exposure onboard. Very few doctors have expertise in this field so do not expect them to be as informed as you would like them to be. Ask them to take a full medical history.

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