Flight Attendants Sue Boeing for Toxic Air that Lead to Permanent Injuries | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

An unknown author once wrote, “Breath is spirit. The act of breathing is living.”  This is undoubtedly true for four flight attendants who are suing Boeing, claiming that toxic air from an engine leaked into their plane and made them seriously ill on a 2013 flight.

In April, a British coroner reported that samples from a British Airways pilot who died in 2012 were “consistent with exposure” to toxic fumes in cabin air. The airline said research shows that the level of dangerous fumes in planes isn’t high enough to pose a health risk.

A lawyer for the four said Tuesday that Boeing has known for decades about the potential danger of drawing warm air off jet engines to heat airplane cabins.  Proof of this is found in a memo written by a long serving Boeing employee, the engineer was so worried about the risk to passengers on board Boeing’s planes he told bosses he was amazed air safety regulators were not taking stronger action.  He said in the email Boeing was fully aware of the issue and some of the events that had been witnessed, including blue clouds of chemical compounds circulating above passengers’ heads, were “significant”

As a Virginia (VA) personal injury lawyer this reminds me of another mass transit industry that also knew of dangerous conditions for employees but did nothing about it.  The nation’s railroads were one of the largest users of asbestos insulating and we now know that mesothelioma is caused exclusively by exposure to airborne asbestos. 

Railroads were knowledgeable by the 1960’s and 1970’s that asbestos was extremely dangers for all employees and that railroad workers who smoke cigarettes were especially facing high risks of cancers. Medical researchers found that workers who are exposed to asbestos, and who also smoke cigarettes, had about 83 fold relative risk increase in contracting mesothelioma.  Sadly the railroads never notified railroad workers who smoke about this increased relative risk.  They also never told workers about the asbestos being in the engines so workers did not even know that they had extensive asbestos exposure.  Our team of railroad worker attorneys edited and published an in-depth legal guide exploring the connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.