quately addressed by FAA and the airline industry, and new health questions have been raised by the public and cabin crew.

In response to the unresolved issues, Congress—in the Wendell H.Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act of the 21st Century, enacted in 2000—directed the FAA to ask the NRC to perform another independent study to assess airborne contaminants in commercial aircraft, to evaluate their toxicity and associated health effects, and to recommend approaches to improve cabin air quality.


The NRC convened a new committee, the Committee on Air Quality in Passenger Cabins of Commercial Aircraft, which prepared this report. The committee’s members were selected for expertise in industrial hygiene, exposure assessment, toxicology, occupational and aerospace medicine, epidemiology, microbiology, aerospace and environmental engineering, air monitoring, ventilation and airflow modeling, and environmental chemistry. The committee was charged to address the following topics:

  1. Contaminants of concern, including pathogens and substances that are used in the maintenance, operation, or treatment of aircraft, including seasonal fuels and deicing fluids.

  2. The systems of passenger cabin air supply on aircraft and ways in which contaminants might enter such systems.

  3. The toxic effects of the contaminants of concern, their byproducts, the products of their degradation, and other factors, such as temperature and relative humidity, that might influence health effects.

  4. Measurements of the contaminants of concern in the air of passenger cabins during domestic and foreign air transportation and comparison with measurements in public buildings, including airports.

  5. Potential approaches to improve cabin air quality, including the introduction of an alternative supply of air for the aircraft passengers and crew to replace bleed air.

The committee was not asked or constituted to address the possible effects of ionizing and nonionizing radiation. Furthermore, the committee did not, nor was it asked to, evaluate the potential costs of implementing any of its recommendations.

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