Susan is a medically-retired pilot and this is the testimony she sent to the Expert Panel on Aircraft Air Quality (EPAAQ) enquiry, set up by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to investigate cabin air quality and related health problems.
Dr Sara Souter
Project Coordinator Cabin Air Quality Study
Rumball Souter Floyd and Associates
PO Box 850
Christchurch Mail Centre
REFERENCE: EPAAQ: Human Safety And Health Risks From The Quality Of Air Onboard
Public submission: Free to republish – Version 2
13 June 2009
Dear Dr Souter.
My name is Susan Michaelis & I am a former Australian airline pilot with over 5000 hours flying experience and had my medical certificate failed by the Australian aviation regulator, CASA in 1999 after becoming unwell and no longer able to fly in 1997. You will have heard from me as I have been researching this problem ever since, initially as I was aware of the cause of my illness and wanted to return to work and since then as I realize oil fumes is a global problem that is just plain wrong and unaddressed. Despite serious long-term ill health as will be detailed below, I am now the head of research for the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) and am very slowly converting my research into a PhD via UNSW to be completed this year. I do all of this with great difficulty, ill health but great determination.
This occurred after CASA reviewed my medical reports showing that I was no longer fit to fly. While flying from 1987 on various aircraft with no health concerns whatsoever, I then spent almost 3 years up until mid 1997 flying on the BAe 146 and experienced repeated short term symptoms extremely regularly when in the air conditioned air of the BAe 146. This pattern of smelling fumes on the BAe 146 when the air supply was on, occurred on most flights and I experienced adverse symptoms in flight on most occasions which varied throughout the flight. It was clear that the symptoms were related to oil contamination as they occurred soon after turning the air supply on, which was my job or when in the aircraft with the air on. Additionally the engineers would advise us and all crew knew that it was ‘just oil’ and they were aware of it.
The Symptoms were more frequent when the aircraft air was on when on the ground, engine warm up, during taxiing, take off, climb, descent & landing. The first symptoms that I noticed were upper airway irritation, particularly with my voice going harsh very quickly, followed by a feeling as if I had sinus or irritated eyes and headaches. I recall advising my doctor that I was getting these intermittent voice problems within a few months of operating on the aircraft. At first the voice problems would disappear along with the other symptoms as soon as I exited the aircraft or very soon after. However over the months my voice became worse and finally after 5 months operating on the BAe 146 and ENT physician diagnosed me with vocal polyps which were removed by surgery in March 1995.The doctor later diagnosed the polyps to be caused by upper airway irritation which he advised was likely caused by exposure to the oil fumes on a repeated basis and therefore suggested the fumes had a long-term effect. I note in 1983 Mobil acknowledged that inhalation of oil fumes could cause to ‘eye, nose and throat irritation’ and this is precisely what happened to me. [] Additionally I note TCP is also identified as causing ‘respiratory tract and mucous membrane irritation’. [] My voice never became nearly as bad again, however for the next 2.5 years I continued to experience a variety of symptoms when operating on the 146. these included: headaches, nausea, upper airway irritation , loss of concentration & difficulty thinking clearly, sensitivity to smells, fatigue and breathing difficulties experienced as a feeling of not enough oxygen. The symptoms began taking more time to clear and became more intense and more frequent but always would clear up at the most within 3 hours of leaving work. I recall taking a period of time off work at the end of 1996 & then holidays in early 1997 and felt far better. Upon return to work the symptoms returned and as I recall it with more severity. In what was to become my last few months flying I recall becoming very sensitive to the flight attendants perfumes and other smells around the airport, very sensitive to air conditioning and becoming chronically fatigued when around the airport environment with major headaches. I could not understand the link properly at the time but I recall walking from the car park at the airport in Canberra to the terminal building, hardly able to carry my flight case. I recall recalling how unwell I felt but it was normal by now for me to feel like this at work and I was aware I was not the only one feeling like this as other crew members were experiencing similar symptoms, both pilots and flight attendants. In addition to ill health, I am aware that flight safety was seriously jeopardized on a number of occasions, however this was not written up as the fumes were normal to us on the BAe 146 and the fumes were so often written in the aircraft tech log but effectively ignored. The fumes were seen as normal, almost a standing joke and we all used to recover fully exiting the aircraft or very soon after. The company, National Jet Systems knew all about it and we assumed they would do something if there really was a problem.
I recall that on 22 July 1997 I went to work as usual and the same symptoms I so often felt returned with the aircraft air on. On this occasion the symptoms must have been somewhat worse as I rang the company operations centre in Adelaide and advised I was feeling like I so often did and wanted to ensure they had spare crew for the next morning’s early shift as I may not be able to work. I advised the airline that I so often experienced a whole host of adverse symptoms when in the aircraft air and I recall making light of the situation as I felt I ‘must be allergic to the aircraft air’. I advised I always seemed to recover at most within 3 hours of returning home and as such was just warning them as I noticed there was no reserve crew in Canberra. I advised I was sure I would recover and would ring them at 8 PM that evening and tell them if I was well enough to work in the morning. I rang the company at 8PM and said I was fit to work and felt well. I went to work on 23/7/97 feeling as well as I normally did & the then experienced the same onset of symptoms when on the aircraft again that morning. I recall feeling just like I so often did and then went home at the end of the day. However on this occasion the symptoms did not go away & instead all my normal symptoms worsened over the next 12-36 hours. I cannot remember exactly but I felt the pressure in my head increase to the point I assumed I must be having a stroke. I have never flown commercially since that day.
The symptoms remained seriously escalated for a week or more and then went down somewhat. The symptoms I was left with included but not limited to: permanent head pressure, chronic fatigue, cognitive problems (short term & working memory), weakness, feeling of not enough oxygen to the brain, breathing problems, head numbness, head tingling, face numbness, sensitivity to chemicals, intermittent nausea, upper airway irritation and rashes. The feeling of head pressure has never fully gone away since that day in July 1997 and the symptoms escalate on chemical exposure (although less than they used to), extra cognitive load and what I term as stop/ start physical activity. I so very often wake up with my head just beating with pain that only recedes on movement. This happens more often when I have been doing too much cognitive work over time, exposed to various chemicals or just been doing too much. It is worrying and often chronically painful for extended time.
15 years since commencing flying on the BAe 146 and 12 years since having to stop flying my health has not recovered. The pattern of chronic health effects that I still experience 12years later covers many areas and I think I most likely have done more testing than most people in the world to determine what the problems are. A number of the problems I am now left with that have been diagnosed and acknowledged by specialist from all over the world include but are not limited to:
- Respiratory: DLCO abnormal; consistent reduction in indicies of small airway function & in diffusing capacity; reduction in alveolar arterial oxygen gradient/ impairment of gas exchange; inhalation of hydrocarbons from oil/aerosols - Consistent with small airways disease; Likely that fine aerosols have been inhaled whilst flying the BAe 146 with the aerosol/mist injuring small airways in lungs causing abnormal respiratory symptomology (Dr Jonathan Burdon & Dr Alan Glanville Australia)
- Neurological: Abnormal – Dr GA Jamal, UK, Dr R Goodheart, Australia)
- Abnormal brain scans: SPECT, EEG, MRS
- Neuronal and glial autoantibodies assessment (Professor M Abou-Donia)
- Neuropsychological: Abnormal psychometric and neuropsychological findings (Dr R Teo/ Dr Leonie Coxon, Australia)
- Autonomic nervous system abnormalities: (Dr P Julu, UK): Abnormally low resting cardiac vagal tone; Borderline muscle sympathetic tone; Cardio accelerator failure; Cutaneous targets: sudomotor failure/ reduced venous return;Central baroflex - high central gain; Low cardiodepressor effect; Evidence of barocpetor failure;Chronic toxic neuropathy: Pattern only seen in farmers with history of chronic exposure to organophosphates in sheep dip & air crew with a history of exposure to air contaminated with jet fumes.
- Abnormal Pathology testing Australia & Biolab (UK): blood tests showing beryllium adducted to my DNA (beryllium is in oil seal bearings), Low ATP, increased free cell DNA, reduced superoxide dismutase, Beryllium Lymphocyte Proliferation test (above normal persons level)
- Chronic fatigue
- Chemical sensitivity: ( Dr W Phoon, Australia; Dr A Harper, Dr M Somers, Australia)
- Toxic encephalopathy: Dr A Harper, Australia ; Dr G Heuser, USA, Dr GA Jamal, UK)
- A strong history with an occupational association (Dr A Harper, Dr M Somers, Dr J Burdon, Australia; Dr G Heuser, Prof Abou-Donia, USA; Dr GA Jamal, Dr P Julu, UK etc……)
- Genetic cell testing: structural rearrangement of chromosomes
- Vocal cord polyps (Dr R Payten , Australia ) Removed 1995
- Nil psychiatric or somatization disorder (Dr F Ng, Dr N Defelice, Australia)
- Neurotoxic injury/ chemical induced nervous system injury (Dr M Somers, Dr A Harper Australia; Prof M Abou-Donia, USA)
These findings have been clearly linked by experts to my repeated exposure on the BAe 146 aircraft and I have a very extensive number of medical reports from senior doctors and scientists from around the world. I am well aware of many other pilots and flight attendants in Australia experiencing almost identical effects and similarly no longer able to fly in most cases. I am also aware of the same effects being experienced by many pilots and flight attendants from the UK, USA and other countries. The pattern is remarkable yet the airline and aviation industry denial is ongoing & ridiculous. To show the extent to which vested interests will go, one of two BAe Systems instructed psychiatrists likened my condition to ‘witchcraft’, while another suggested I had experienced ‘hayfever’ in the aircraft and now it was ‘somatosensory disorder’.
I have had to live with this condition for 12 years and as stated the symptoms vary in intensity apart from the head pressure which is permanent. Cessation of activity, removal from a chemical environment is the only relief I have found, apart from exercise which does help. A clean as chemical free environment also helps. The symptoms can and do become disabling. As such I have been unable to earn an income all these years and am only now getting to a stage where I can do small project work at a pace to suit me. I have managed to do this research over all these years as I can do it from home, slowly and it involves a lot of what I call stored long-term knowledge, however I do severely struggle with it & it often takes me many months or longer to get required tasks done. I am finding my research progressively harder as I struggle to deal with volumes of information. However I do try.
In addition to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority accepting reports from both Professor D Wakefield and Professor W Phoon, amongst others stating my condition and subsequently failing my medical, I was assessed by 3 medical experts selected by National Jet Systems in order to qualify for my pilot loss of licence compensation. I was required to see a psychologist, a neurologist and an immunologist/ allergist by the insurance company. The same reports that went to CASA were given to the insurance company and clearly the doctors accepted these reports as I did receive the loss of licence without question. I must say at this stage it was disturbing to learn that an Ansett Captain Leanne Harper was advised by CASA that they would not fail her medical based upon her reports describing a major oil fume event [] stating chemical sensitivity, rather they considered her condition to be of psychiatric origin. This was despite the fact that the Ansett odour inquiry had only recently concluded that oil fumes were occuring and could make people acutely ill. The problem was her reports were virtually the same as mine and I was not accused by CASA of having a psychiatric condition. The only difference was that she clearly identified her condition to be linked to oil fumes, while I was more subtle as I was aware of the controversy and felt at that stage the cause was less important. However the doctors were made aware of the fact that I became ill in the aircraft conditioned air and the CASA PMO was well aware of the problem based on conversations with me. As such CASA’s preference to accuse Captain Harper of a psychiatric condition was purely motivated by it’s bias towards Ansett. I was well aware that Captain Harper was intimidated and threatened and the Bureau of Air safety even advised me that CASA had advised Ansett could sue her as she had failed to put an ATSB report in within the 48 hour required time frame. I was also aware that she was refused loss of licence insurance cover until she fought the system to assume get what she was entitled as I heard no more about this. I am aware that she was denied workers compensation based on evidence I believe given by Ansett selected doctors including Dr R Loblay.
I am not at all happy that I have suffered from such ill health all these years when it is easily more probable than not that the cause was related to the oil fumes. I still suffer badly daily and I want and deserve answers. I have beryllium adducted to my DNA. This is quite clearly not normal and we know this whole issue is one of oil seal bearings braking down and not functioning as required. I have never been given any answers on what the implications are when one has beryllium adducted to DNA. I am aware of pilots off the major Ansett Alysia Chew BAe 146 incident in 1992 being apparently advised that they had berylliosis of the lungs. This cannot be a coincidence. I deserve answers on this. We all know bearings in the aviation industry use beryllium. For that matter why do so many aircrew who are medically retired have nickel adducted to their DNA? You must not leave us suffering in isolation any longer without income or the possibility to investigate these things.
I must now draw to your attention several issues which I will set out in brief below:
I am not going to attempt to cover the extent of the industry knowledge on this issue, however I will say the level of knowledge dates back for decades and is extremely extensive. I had no idea the problem that my colleagues and I were suffering extended outside my company. I never imagined this for a minute. National Jet Systems made us aware that oil leaking was an ongoing issue in our company, one that it seemed unable or unwilling to resolve and I accepted this. In my day we were not advised to use oxygen when the fumes occurred. I had no idea this was a design issue related to engine oil seals used in bleed air systems. I assumed my company would have done a risk assessment. It was only after I became permanently unwell in July 1997 that I learnt that the problem was worldwide and Ansett had been dealing with the ongoing issue since the 1980’s. I was in fact given a large folder of information that was part of the 1990 Ansett initiated ‘BAe 146 Odour Inquiry Committee’, by a union representative and this was the start of my awareness, however it had become already obvious to me that my symptoms were related as the short-term symptoms had become long-term. I then became aware other crew had become long-term sick both within Ansett and National Jet Systems. Nobody ever warned me of any risks. It concerned me that I had been suffering so badly for so long and that I could very easily been the co-pilot on what is known on the Kolver NJF 10 July 1997 incident in which Captain Kolver was incapacitated and the check captain became unwell. I then do not like to think what might have happened as I had flown with Captain Kolver on a number of occasions. To gain a thorough understanding of the level of industry knowledge on this issue, please refer to my recently published reference manual which is 844 pages of fully referenced data on this issue.[] I would also be very pleased to let you see my PhD work when it becomes available as it directly covers the contaminated air issue. The GCAQE and AFA presentations cover my other concerns in more detail.
In late1998 as it became clear to me I was very unlikely to return to flying I consulted lawyers so as to protect my legal rights. I considered there was overwhelming evidence that the oil fumes problem was known and I was unwell with a temporal connection. I thought it was my right to be compensated for a career that I had wanted since I was a young girl and fought for and now had lost almost certainly. An action was finally commenced in 1999 and submitted in the ACT Supreme Court in 2001 against National Jet Systems and the aircraft manufacturer, BAe Systems. The legal system in Australia was hopelessly inadequate to look after my rights based on long-term chronic exposure to chemicals that were not monitored but well acknowledged. The case went virtually nowhere for years as BAe and it’s deep pockets ensured we never even got to court. National Jet Systems just tagged along using the BAe Systems power. The defence had the money spend to just stall the process & demand that we identify every single contaminant on every single occasion I was exposed in what quantity and to identify which body system each chemical effected. As there were no monitors on the aircraft this was impossible. They demanded that I advise the exact days each event occurred, yet they were well aware most events were never reported as is the case throughout the airline industry (acknowledged by the FAA) and those that were reported, were in the aircraft technical log which they refused to let me see. They also fought over jurisdiction and suggested as I flew overhead various states I was in the wrong state, that they had no knowledge of the oil fumes issue and so on. I was required to see 5 lots of medical doctors by BAe Systems and 4 of them advised that it was witchcraft that was the problem, somatosensory, and uncertain, while the 5th Dr, a member of the CASA EPAAQ panel, Dr R Loblay’s report was never made available for me to see. I would therefore assume it was somewhat in my favour as he had previously sat on the Ansett panel which accepted oil fume events did occur. I was deceptively forced to pay for my own travel arrangements to attend the BAe Systems appointments and after 3 years of repeatedly asking for my $2500 in travel expenses to be paid back, I was advised by the BAe Systems lawyers that they would deduct this amount from the money that I owed them and National Jet Systems, $336,000 Aud to be paid within 7 days. The reason for this is that the judge had awarded costs either against me or reserved costs in cause based upon the defendants demands. The court clearly accepted that such a claim was a waste of the courts time. I was advised that if I did not pay the money within 7 days, they would apply to the court for security over my assets. The court accepted or reserved acceptance against me for a number of reasons including that I could not advise which chemical on every occasion and so on, despite that I advised that it was oil fumes which contained TCP and other substances and pyrolysis products. One of the orders against me was that I had asked BAe systems to provide the Ansett documents showing that money had changed hands in 1993 between BAe, Allied Signal, Garrett and Ansett/East West. BAe claimed I was ‘fishing’ and no such documents existed. The court blindly accepted this when BAe applied for costs against me for wasting both theirs and the courts time in this way. I had repeatedly asked for BAe to allow me to discontinue against them, but was advised they would never do this unless I dropped National Jet Systems, as NJS was countersuing them. I could not do this as my employer clearly owed me a duty of care. BAe systems advised their aircraft was safe and they would never allow this case or any other to succeed. Fortunately for my sake I had left the case to the lawyers and got on with my life and could see early on it was almost impossible to beat the deep pockets of BAe Systems no matter what evidence was available. As such in 2007 I saw an opportunity to walk away from the case with a discontinuance. I was advised by BAe and NJS unless that they would not allow this to happen unless I gave them a win and a silence agreement with NJS in return for $250000. I advised I would never allow this as the evidence was never heard and I did not want the NJS money if I had to give them both a win and silence to NJS. I therefore had to write to the BAe Systems Board of directors in London to advise I would never accept this nor would their shareholders or the public. I was subsequently given a discontinuance so long as I agreed to never take action against either of the defence again, the oil companies, parts manufacturer’s, take on a workers compensation case and so on. I accepted the discontinuance, with no money and no silence gag. I agreed to this to get my life back. To take away my workers compensation right is very wrong but I was given no choice. I was advised if I ever take on any of these organizations again the $336000 demand will be reinstated immediately. I was advised by my own legal people that I should accept their offer and allow BAe/NJS to be given a ‘win’ and to accept the money from NJS and they thought this would have no effect on anyone other than me. I suggested this was immoral and crews and passengers for years to come would be told that the airline industry had won a case thus proving the air was safe. I could not do this, particularly as none of the evidence was ever heard.
A few months after the case was discontinued I was horrified to learn that the Ansett, BAe, Allied Signal and Garrett agreements showing money being paid by the manufacturer’s to Ansett/East West for adverse air quality did in fact exist along with Ansett admissions that the air ventilation tests carried out in 1997 all failed and TCP had in fact been found at 4 times the allowable level according to Allied Signal. These documents were tabled in the Australian parliament by Senator O’Brien who advised that he was concerned that the Parliament, the courts and CASA had all been misled as these documents appeared to have been with held. [] Clearly they had, however I would have to say CASA quite willingly due to it’s clear industry bias at the time. Along with the BAe Systems clear admissions at the Australian Senate inquiry that there was quite clearly a health problem based on the overwhelming number of people suffering, none of this came into play with the court system.
I think the court system in Australia clearly failed me as it is only interested in one clearly identifiable event, favours the deep pockets of the defence and is not even remotely interested in the overwhelming evidence available. Such failings are still occuring globally and I advise crews to never take legal action as I consider the court system in the UK and Australia a waste of time, no matter what evidence is available. The justice system should be overhauled in this respect, but I cannot see this happening. I tried to advise the ACT Supreme court that the court was misled, however they were not remotely interested. Sadly there was no justice and the defence are free to continue harming people as they have for many years as they know they can. Apart from 1 or 2 settled civil cases, other crews in Australia were advised that their cases were following mine and eventually there was no chance of taking on a case. I understand there has been a recent victory in the NSWDDT, however for the value of true compensation and heartache, the years of heartache and risk in the court system is not worth it.
The Australian Senate Inquiry in 2000 recommended to “Appoint an experienced, retired judicial officer or eminent person who is appropriately qualified to conduct a review of unsuccessful or inordinately delayed employees’ compensation cases, pilots’ loss of license insurance, personal income protection, and with-held superannuation/other insurance claims made for personal injury and loss of employment as a result of ill health claimed to result from exposure to fumes on the BAe 146 and other aircraft… to determine if dealt with according to requirements and appropriate standards of procedural fairness.” This never happened & quite clearly needs to happen. Given the number of people suffering and volume of evidence available, I believe that what will need to happen in the future is for the industry to establish a compensation fund for those injured just like has occurred in the asbestos and RAAF cases in Australia, however without the delays and difficulties cited. We have strong evidence of crews in Australia having seriously suffered for almost 20 years, living without income and still seriously unwell. Life is not easy for these people and it is not right any longer to continue to abandon such people. Particularly given the following admissions (a small selection and only those from Government/industry)
- Rolls Royce: 2003: “Any oil leaking from an engine, entering the aircraft customer bleed offtake, is classified as HAZARDOUS”[]
- BAe Systems 2000: “With the weight of human evidence and suffering, which is quite clear, there must be something there” “There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that there is a general health issue here” []
- CASA 2007: “Mobil Jet Oil II- Known to be harmful” []
- German Government 2009: “Does the German Government believe that inhaling of heated engine oil fumes is harmless for the health of crew and passengers?”. Answer “No" []
- NSWDDB 2009: “Smoke from pyrolysed oil can be hazardous to the eyes, mucous membranes and lungs”[]
- Mobil 2009: “Product may decompose at elevated temperatures or under fire conditions and give off irritating and/or harmful (carbon monoxide) gases/vapours/fumes.[]
- NYCO 2009: “Product may decompose at elevated temperatures or under fire conditions and produce harmful gases or vapours. Vapours or mist of heated product may be harmful by inhalation.”[]
- SAE 1981: Engine Lube Oil: “At temperatures above 320C this oil breaks down into irritating and toxic compounds.”[]
- R Rayman 1983: “All of these toxic substances (includes engine oil) have acute and long-term effects” []
- UK Government 1999: “The inhalation of mist (containing tricresylphosphate) which can be produced by high pressure systems, or direct contact with the skin, would be hazardous.”[]
- FAA 2002: “FAA rulemaking has not kept pace with public expectation and concern about air quality and does not afford explicit protection from particulate matter and other chemical and biological hazards.” “No present airplane design fulfills the intent of 25.831 because no airplane design incorporates an air contaminant monitoring system to ensure that the air provided to the occupants is free of hazardous contaminants" []
- UK COT 1999:“Neuropsychological outcomes - Neuropsychological abnormalities can occur as a long-term complication of acute OP poisoning”[]
- UK HSE 1998: 1998: Organophosphates: HSE: MS17[]
“Repeated low level exposure leads to cumulative toxicity.” (1981 ed)
“Acute and repeated exposure can produce harmful effects in man, and it has been suggested that chronic exposure at lower doses may cause long-term ill health.” (1998 ed)
Through my research over the last 12 years I have been contacted by many hundreds of airline crews (and a growing number of passengers) and have closely reviewed reports and data from many more. I can assure you that many have just given up or are too unwell to care any longer about making submissions, trying to get support and help. They are struggling just to survive often with families to care for still. It is an almost impossible task to bring these people together and extract their information and medical data, flight reports and similar, while almost all crews still working simply DO NOT trust the aviation industry, their airlines, the regulators to advise them of their concerns with repeated exposure to contaminated air. I will point out an example of what can happen that 2 that did speak out.
- In the UK evidence was presented to the UK COT inquiry that stated 2 British Airways pilots reported most of the fume events on the B757. The 2 pilots referred to were Captain Tristan Loraine and Captain Tim Lindsay. Both experienced many oil fume events over many years with one AAIB report in 2004 detailing the lack of understanding or interest so often seen within the industry.[] The pilots involved in this incident over 3 days were Captain Loraine on the fist occasion and Captain Lindsay on following 2 occasions a few days later with one requiring hospitalization. Tristan Loraine is now medically retired after many further events and TCP being found in his blood after an identified oil fume event. Captain Lindsay sadly died in January 2009 after years of further oil fume exposures, adverse effects and then in 2008 being identified with a stage 4 GBM brain tumour. Both were acutely aware of the pressure placed upon them for reporting the fumes (as required under the aviation regulations) and the pressures of having to continue work in an adverse cabin air environment on a frequent basis.
As part of my research I have been undertaking a survey on past and present BAe 146 pilots. The preliminary data shows that of approximately 300 pilots surveyed to date, in excess of 85% acknowledged they were aware of the contaminated air; 65% reported some degree of adverse symptoms (short, medium or long-term) and a oil fumes exposure history; around 30% show medium to long-term adverse effects of a similar pattern; with in excess of 10% of those surveyed medically retired, retired then suffering ill health of a similar nature with all having a long history of exposure to oil fumes and a number having died in what I can see as a pattern.
What I am now finding is very concerning. I am finding a pattern of chronic diseases in a group of these surveyed pilots and others I am being told about. All have a strong history of oil fume exposures as it is known that oil leaks as a feature of the design of bleed air systems with some aircraft more prone to the problem than others (BAe 146, B757, MD80…) I have identified a pattern of MND, pilots being identified with what is termed as Parkinson’s like effects, Alzheimer’s and now brain cancers. With regard to the brain cancers, I have identified 5 pilots with what I understand are all stage 4 GBM, of which 4 were BAe 146 pilots and the other a B757 pilot. I have found a strong pattern of chronic illness in what was formerly Air UK. At the recent GCAQE conference, Professor Abou-Donia advised that chronic exposure to organophosphates and the synergistic effects from chemicals can effect the areas of the brain, associated with the chronic ill health I have mentioned above and thus misdiagnosis often occurs or the cause remains ignored. I will be glad to supply you with this work once published shortly. Given the recent association between exposure to nerve agents and chemicals and increased rates of MND and brain cancer shown in Gulf War Illness and the study undertaken on commercial pilots, I think my findings should be looked at in far greater detail with great urgency. There is a LOT of suffering going on out there that the airline industry and Government’s have chosen to turn a complete blind eye to.[, ,] I believe you should be talking closely with professor Abou-Donia as well as Professor Robert Hayley as both have extensive knowledge in these areas.
I am aware of many others who have not undertaken the rigorous testing that I have. They have often given up and just accepted ill health and moved on as they have found the medical profession is almost totally unaware to look at the effect chemicals can have on health and says based on tests undertaken nothing can be found.
For a further summary of my concerns I would ask you to look at the submission I gave to the recent House of Lords 2007 Inquiry and the critique of the COT committee work that was recently presented. [, ].
One further curious finding is that of 4 female pilots in Australia. In 1987 Leanne Harper and captain Robyn May were the first all female crew flying on an Ansett subsidiary flight, while the same was the case for Captain sally Muggeridge and myself in 1992 on the Qantas network. 3 out of the 4 of us (Harper, May, Michaelis) have all lost our careers and health related to oil fumes exposure, while the 4th, Sally Muggeridge is still flying to date. The only curious point is that the 3 of us who have lost our pilot medicals all flew on the BAe 146, while Sally Muggeridge did not. More than just a co-incidence as not many girls flew on the BAe 146 back in those days in Australia. All 3 continue to suffer ill health of a similar nature today 12 and 15 years later.
I believe that the CASA EPAAQ must recommend the following and must ensure the aviation industry, regulators and Governments do not just ignore these as they have done in all cases in the past or paid lip service to them and established more research that goes on forever almost, and gives the answers the industry wants. This is no longer acceptable. Recommendations include but are not limited to:
- Full scale epidemiological survey with aviation regulator providing required contact details; Initial study should be undertaken on BAe 146 pilots/ cabin crew in Australia/UK)
- Recognition that there is a pattern of ill health more than likely caused by exposure to oil fumes and hydraulic fluids. Some call this aerotoxic syndrome.
- Research into inhalation toxicity of heated engine oils, TCP including the MOCP & DOCP isomers & synergistic effects.
- Research full medical effects being seen based on inhalation toxicity studies and effects being seen and reported
- Recognition that airworthiness regulation 25.831b is not met as long as permanent monitoring equipment is not mandated to be fitted
- Recommend that bleed air monitoring /contaminated air detection is made mandatory
- Requirement to research and fit bleed air filtration and air cleaning technology
- Development and use of less toxic oils
- ICAO should require all future aircraft to use bleed free technology
- Enhancement of engine oil seals so as to vastly reduce leakage of engine oil into the air supply for all current aircraft using bleed air
- Require airlines to maintain engine oil seals in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations
- Adhere to the EU precautionary principle
- Undertake a review of failed or delayed legal, insurance claims or chronic ill health with loss of career/pilot licence;
- Establish a compensation fund for those who demonstrate chronic ill health (or those that have passed away) related to contaminated air based on the balance of probabilities
- Provide real support to crews and passengers who have suffered short or long-term ill health as a result of contaminated air based on reasonable probability
- Ensure all aviation legislation related to cabin air contamination is adhered to including reporting, investigation of defects, airworthiness….
- Educate crews(pilots & flight attendants) on the possible effects of contaminated air and the need to report these events and actions to be taken
- Provide a central reporting facility where passengers and crews can report adverse effects after a suspected bleed air contamination event & follow up data can be provided
- Establish an international medical protocol on how to deal with suspected contaminated air exposures (crews & passengers): Utilize or further develop FAA funded OHRCA medical protocol
- Establish an international database where contaminated air events can be recorded
- Require airlines to release data on bleed air contamination events upon request
- Advise passengers and crews when bleed air contamination event is suspected to have occurred & possibility these can occur
- Require pilots to use oxygen whenever a contaminated air event is suspected and to use this as the initial action
- Provide passengers and cabin crew with suitable protective masks for when bleed air contamination events are suspected to have occurred
Please do let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Captain Susan Michaelis
PO Box 322
 Mobil Oil Corporation (1983) Mobil Jet Oil II. Environmental Affairs and Toxicology Department, New York, Correspondence.
 NTP Chemical Repository data (Radian Corporation, August 29, 1991), Tricresyl phosphate.
 Senate Rural & Regional Affairs & Transport References Committee. Air Safety & cabin air quality in the BAe 146 aircraft. Canberra: Parliament of Australia. Final report, October 2000. Section 5.31-5.32
. Michaelis S. (2007) Aviation Contaminated Air Reference Manual. ISBN 9780955567209
. Commonwealth Of Australia Senate Hansard. Monday, 13 August 2007& Thursday, 20 September 2007 Aircraft Cabin Air Quality - Senator Obrien
 Rolls Royce, Germany 2003, BRE air quality Conference, London
 BAe Systems verbal evidence to Australian senate Inquiry 2000
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