Cabin Air Quality in Commercial Aircraft : Exposure, Symptoms and Signs

Abstract: The objective of the dissertation was to study the cabin environment, and identify personal and environmental risk factors, associated with symptoms, and perception of cabin air quality. Another objective was to study if ban of smoking, and increased relative air humidity on intercontinental flights, could have a beneficial health effect. The studies were performed among Scandinavian cabin crew in one Airline Company. Office workers from the same company served as controls. Exposure differed between cruise and non-cruise conditions. Air humidity was very low during intercontinental flights (3-8%). Concentration of moulds, bacteria, formaldehyde, and ozone was low. Tobacco smoking increased respirable particles in the cabin air, from 3 to 49 mg/m3, and increased cotinine in urine. The ETS-exposure was highest in the aft part of the cabin. Symptoms and environmental complaints were more common among flight crew than office workers. We could identify personal factors of importance, and certain conditions that could be improved, to achieve a better cabin environment. There was an association between symptoms and environmental perceptions and work stress, lack of influence on working condition, and a history of atopy. After ban on smoking in aircraft, there was a decrease of ocular and general symptoms, and increased tear-film stability in aircrew. Air humidification reduced headache and ocular, nasal, and dermal dryness symptoms, increased tear-film stability, and increased nasal patency. Our result indicates that ETS and low air humidity are important environmental factors in aircraft, and that atopy, and work stress could be significant risk factors for symptoms and environmental perceptions.