carbon monoxide (CO), various organic chemicals, and biological agents. Passengers and cabin crew have long complained about the air quality in commercial aircraft. These complaints include fatigue, dizziness, headaches, sinus and ear problems, dry eyes, sore throat, and occasionally more serious effects, such as nervous system disorders and incapacitation. Data on the overall percentages of passengers and cabin crew who report complaints about cabin air have not been systematically collected, a few small surveys provide illustrative examples (see Tables 6–3 through 6–6 in Chapter 6).

Aircraft passengers are sedentary most of the time on any flight, but that is not true of the cabin crew, who are responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers. Cabin crew, who number over 105,000 in the United States, are 20–80 years old, with the majority being between 30 and 55 years. Flight attendants work at a higher energy level than passengers and are exposed to cabin air for longer durations. They are typically in flight 50–80 h per month, and their maximal flight hours range from 75 to 105 h per month (AFA 2001).

In response to concerns raised by the flying public and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) regarding the air quality aboard commercial aircraft, Congress directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in the Wendell H.Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act of the 21st Century (passed in April 2000), to request that the National Research Council (NRC) perform an independent study to assess the contaminants of concern in commercial aircraft and their toxicological and health effects, and provide recommendations for approaches to improving cabin air quality. In response, the NRC convened the Committee on Air Quality in Passenger Cabins of Commercial Aircraft, whose members include experts in industrial hygiene, exposure assessment, toxicology, occupational and aerospace medicine, epidemiology, microbiology, aerospace and environmental engineering, air-quality monitoring, ventilation and airflow modeling, and environmental chemistry. The committee was charged with the following specific issues:

  1. Contaminants of concern, as determined by the committee, including pathogens and substances used in the maintenance, operation, or treatment of aircraft, including those that may result from seasonal changes in fuels and from the use of deicing fluids.

  2. The systems of passenger cabin air supply on aircraft and the means by which contaminants may enter such systems.

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