Why are airplanes a concern?
Airplanes make it possible for thousands of people to travel short and long distances every day, within and outside the United States. However, airplanes emit several hazardous air pollutants, and aviation industry workers can be exposed to several toxic chemicals.
Airplanes emit air pollutants that include benzene, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, toluene, volatile organic compounds, and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Chemicals used to de-ice airplanes in the winter include propylene glycol and ethylene glycol which may run into and contaminate local waterways.
Aviation employees who work in airplane ground service and maintenance can be exposed to gasoline, jet fuel, solvents, glues, degreasers, and coatings which may contain toxic chemicals.
While the air quality of an airplane cabin is similar to other indoor environments, there are also differences. Passengers on a plane are in a more densely populated area than usual. Those flying on an airplane are exposed to low humidity and reduced air pressure in the cabin, as well as potential exposure to air contaminants, including ozone and allergens.
Flight crews and passengers may be exposed to pesticides if pesticide spraying is required in the airplane before it takes off. International flights are more likely to require pesticide spraying to prevent spreading plant diseases and pests from one region to another. They may also be exposed to water pollutants, if the drinking water aboard the airplanes fails to meet federal standards, and small amounts of cosmic radiation.
This description is based on the information found in the Web links listed with this topic.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
Aircraft (Environmental Protection Agency)
Aircraft Drinking Water Rule (Environmental Protection Agency)
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians. Haz-Map (National Library of Medicine)
Aircrew Health and Safety (Federal Aviation Administration)
Airline Industry (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Airport Security Scanning. RadTown USA (Environmental Protection Agency)
Aviation Worker Health (Association of Flight Attendants)
Cosmic Radiation During Flights. RadTown USA (Environmental Protection Agency)
Ergonomics: Baggage Handling eTool (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Managing Aircraft and Airfield Deicing Operations to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water (Environmental Protection Agency) (PDF — 1.5 MB)
Passenger Health and Safety (Federal Aviation Administration)
Chemicals in Aviation
Are these chemicals in MY community?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Last Updated: November 18, 2013