by Pepijn Steemers Gas masks the latest fashion in air travel!
---Toxic nerve gas is released in cabin air of most modern airplanes, which is the cause of severe irreversible health issues and now some proven deaths.---
Have you seen this new fashion in which the passenger next to you puts on a gas mask after he sits down in the plane? Two large white filters on a dark blue mask normally only used for very toxic environments. Surreal, isn't it? Imagine how you would react if that happened.
That passenger next to you could be me, and yes, the gasses released in most modern planes are really that dangerous! In fact, the aerotoxic Syndrome is already called the asbestos of the sky.
So what is happening, you ask? Cabin air in most pressurized airliners is partly from re-circulated air and partly air from unfiltered "bleed air". That air is directly originated from the engines and is proven to contain low concentrations of TCP’s, an organophosphate. These organophosphates can cause a variety of symptoms of which many can become irreversible.
This article is by no means an attempt to prove the aerotoxic syndrome or explain it in detail. Nor is it diving in why a problem of such a scale is possible to continue off the radar in our connected society. Real questions for which there are many very good answers and resources. This article tells you my story, how I got affected, what I am doing about it and, how you can help making flying safe.
A bit about myself. I have always been in love with aviation. Have a private pilot license since 10 years. In the last nine years I have worked mostly as an entrepreneur in solar energy in Tanzania. Traveling the globe intensely with an average of 2 flights a week, I made a hobby earn my living. In short, air travel has been a major, and a passionate part of my life.
However, over the years I started to lose my normal vigor up to a point where it turned to chronic fatigue. Every time I reached home from a flight it took me 3 to 4 days rest before I could work again. But then the next flight would already be in sight.
People told me I was getting older; it was stress related, I traveled too much and I worked too hard. So many things that could cause this problem. In my efforts to find the culprit I have seen several doctors, had lots of tests and tried multiple alternative therapies as doctors were not able to find anything. I was told there was nothing while the difference with the way I knew "me" was huge.
During this time, a befriended commercial pilot and medical doctor informed me on Aerotoxic Syndrome which he was diagnosed with and which he started to investigate intensively. The cumulative effect of the TCP build-up in your body causes problems and makes it so hard to diagnose. We discussed this at length at many occasions and yet I always failed to correlate this with my personal energy drain. Probably it was a truth too inconvenient for me to project on my personal situation. It's very much like the boiling frog syndrome. You only realize what the problem is when it's too late.
But then I reduced travel and I remarkably recovered the longer I stayed out of a plane. After I recognized this pattern for three times I called on my pilot friend and we set out testing. And there it was, all my symptoms, recovery patterns and blood tests pointed towards Aerotoxic Syndrome.
With companies in several countries stretched over two continents the complications hit hard. How do you run an enterprise in Africa if you are not able to go there in person?
And that is how flying with a gas mask became my new reality.
But hey, an entrepreneur doesn't stop when hurdles hit the road. As I was looking into solutions to travel in a more comfortable way than with a gas mask, I was introduced to a team of people developing an amazing personal air filter solution for use in airplanes. We started talking and it quickly emerged that to get this solution off the ground in a timeframe interesting to me, additional financing is required. And that, I thought, is something I can handle.
At the moment I am working with some fantastic doctors and I am well on my way finding out how much I'll recover. I am started to be able to run my companies. To make me able to travel normally again, I am very committed to finding people interested to join us to fund and introduce this personal air filtration system into the market.
Let me give you a little more perspective in the problem. The only plane that uses a different cabin air system and is safe to fly is the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner". There are about 19,000 airliners in operation of which just over 280 are 787's. That means that about 1.5% of all planes in operation are safe to fly.
About 5% of travelers, pilots, and cabin crew respond badly to TCP's. In other words, on 8.8 million daily passengers about 440,000 develop problems in some form or shape. And that for the supposedly safest way of travel.
So join the latest fashion in air travel and protect yourself from further damage, wear a gas mask on your next flight or call on me if you want to be part of the solution.