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Legislation aimed at protecting flight crews from toxic fumes

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Photo: Anchiy/iStockphoto

Washington — A bipartisan bill reintroduced in both chambers of Congress is intended to make the air safer to breathe for crews and passengers on commercial aircraft.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) announced the Cabin Air Safety Act (S. 615 and H.R. 1293) on March 1.

“While planes pressurize and ventilate the cabin with outside air that flows through the engines, faulty seals and other malfunctions can lead to the circulation of engine oil, deicing fluids, insecticides and other harmful fumes around the cabin,” Blumenthal said in a press release. “Protecting fliers from harmful fumes that leak into the cabin is essential to safeguarding their health.”

The legislation would:

  • Require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors on aircraft and monitoring during flights.
  • Mandate that flight attendants, pilots, airplane maintenance personnel, airport first responders and emergency response teams complete annual training on responding to incidents on aircraft involving smoke or fumes.
  • Direct the Federal Aviation Administration to create a standardized form for flight attendants and other personnel to report details of incidents involving smoke or fumes.
  • Require investigation of such incidents no more than seven days after the occurrence to identify the cause, and ensure FAA develops a website to make the data collected available to the public.

Blumenthal and Garamendi introduced similar legislation in April 2019. Neither the House nor the Senate version made it past the committee stage.

A press release from Blumenthal’s office notes the legislation is backed by multiple industry groups, including the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and Air Line Pilots Association, International. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters tweeted on March 7 that “this bill is critical to improving workplace safety for Teamsters who work in the sky.”

Co-sponsors include Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

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