The 'aerotoxic syndrome' receives a lot of attention in the Netherlands. Aerotoxic syndrome is the name given to the short- and long-term health effects allegedly caused by exposure to toxic fumes in an airplane cabin, more specifically: exposure to tricresyl phosphate (TCP). TCP is used by airline companies as an additive in the lubricating oil of airplane engines to make the oil more resistant against high temperatures. It is alleged that if there is a malfunction in the bleed air supply of an airplane, which compresses air from the engines and uses it to pressurise the cabin, it could lead to TCP circulating into the cabin air.
While the syndrome is not a new phenomenon (the term was introduced in the late 1990's) aerotoxic syndrome is receiving growing interest in the Netherlands. It is alleged that there is increasing scientific evidence that the exposure to the toxic substances can cause complaints, such as concentration disturbance, headache, fatigue and insomnia.
The Dutch government seems to have picked up the topic as well. In 2010 and 2012, the State Secretary of Infrastructure and the Environment indicated that – on the basis of scientific publications – there is no evidence of a link between TCP in the cabin air and the alleged aerotoxic syndrome and therefore further investigation would not be required. However, in a letter to the House of Representatives dated 5 March 2013, the State Secretary reneged this statement and announced that upon the request of the Dutch government, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is planning to carry out an investigation – within the framework of the REACH-Regulation (EC 1907/2006) – into the possible risks of TCP’s. The Dutch National Institute of Public Health and Environment (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM) will conduct this investigation on behalf of the ECHA. The investigation is expected to start in 2014.
In June of this year, the State Secretary further announced that an additional investigation will be carried out in the Netherlands in relation to the way in which cabin crew and passengers could be exposed to TCP in an airplane cabin and the possible physical reactions to such exposure. The State Secretary indicated that she is planning to get back to the Dutch Parliament with a detailed proposal in September 2013.
It has also been announced that a group of cabin crew is currently preparing a claim against different airline companies in relation to the damages they have allegedly suffered as a result of exposure to toxic fumes in cabin air.