Former pilot is campaigning to clean up toxic air on aeroplanes

Some people might feel nervous stepping onto an aeroplane, knowing they will be hurtling through the sky at thousands of feet.

But few consider the air they are breathing while they travel may be making them sick.

Headaches, breathing difficulties, dizziness and even seizures are among the many symptoms caused by fumes in aeroplanes, according to former pilot and Fenny Compton resident John Hoyte.

After years of flying commercial aircraft Mr Hoyte went from being confident, articulate and cheerful to withdrawn and depressed. Tests later showed his symptoms to be the result of ‘aerotoxic’ fumes from the aeroplanes’ engines.

He formed the Aerotoxic Association and set up a website to provide help and support to pilots, cabin crew and passengers with similar experiences.

Mr Hoyte said: “I was concerned and angry when I first realised I had been affected. Many pilots have lost their jobs and livelihoods as a result of this.

“My doctor prescribed anti-depressants but I still felt ill and my character changed entirely. My memory was shot to pieces. There is lots of evidence but the government doesn’t seem to want to do anything. It seems daft and dangerous to pretend this is not happening.”

A Panorama programme on BBC1 on March 24 will explore the subject, which has already received coverage in the UK national media and beyond.

Experts have estimated the problem affects around 200,000 passengers each year but others suggest the figure is much higher.

Mr Hoyte said the government and airlines which control the multi-million dollar aviation industry are ignoring the mounting evidence.

Some of the air in commercial aeroplanes, flying passengers to destinations like the USA and Australia, is drawn directly from the engine and piped into the aeroplane through air conditioning systems. It is known as ‘bleed’ air.

Mr Hoyte said this means crew and passengers on around one in every 2,000 flights can be exposed to a highly toxic cocktail of chemicals.

Other reported symptoms include blurred vision, loss of balance, memory loss, tremors, vomiting and irritation of the eyes, nose and airways.

Mr Hoyte believes the consequences can last for years, with sufferers usually failing to make a link between their illness and air travel.

Often they are misdiagnosed and receive inappropriate treatment.

Mr Hoyte explained that relatively simple solutions already exist, including air filters, different oils and aircraft which do not use bleed air.

He said: “We are trying to be positive. These things can be installed and if they add say, 10p on to your ticket, surely that is a small price to pay?”

A documentary called Welcome Aboard Toxic Airlines will be shown at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford at 1.30pm on March 16.

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