In a disturbing case, Terry Williams, a 17 year veteran flight attendant for American Airlines, is alleging that the plane’s flaws lead to her exposure to toxic exposure to chemicals that lead to her ailments. Since December of 2008, she has had a constant migraine. In addition, she is facing balance and vision problems, the inability to remember childhood memories, tremors in her arm, and a prickly sensation in her feet.
The event in question happened on April 11. 2007 when she says she was on Flight 843. As the plane taxied into place in Dallas, Texas, she claims she saw a misty type of haze come into the cabin. The “fume event” as it is being termed, is what she blames for her illnesses. She states that as she was leaving the plane she felt as if she had a cold coming on and experienced a neon green discharge from her nose.
Williams has filed a product liability lawsuit against Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, the aircraft manufacturers. The claim she has is that there was a lack of filters and sensors to protect her from such an incident.
In particular, the concern is the chemical tricresyl phosphate. This is a chemical that is used in nerve agents and pesticides. There is a lot of dispute over how often these types of events occur, though they are said to happen. The National Research Council reported in 2002 that four out of 1000 flights have such a fume event. This data was collected from three Canadian airlines. The FAA does not dismiss the potential of fume events happening and has promised to look into the events. At the same time, the FAA reports that the symptoms are also found in other neurological conditions. They are working to determine the amount of exposure to chemicals in aircraft.
New technologies in plane design, such as those found in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner no longer use the same methods to cooling the engine, which is being blamed for the event. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 which has passed the House and is now in the Senate calls for research and the development of filters and sensors for removing oil based containments from the bleed air, the problem that could have lead to Williams’ condition.