Proposed Law Would Regulate Toxic Fumes on Airlines

There's no guarantee that it will pass, however

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In 2020, a Los Angeles Times investigation discovered something unsettling for anyone who travels regularly by airline. As journalist Kiera Feldman wrote at the time, “vapors from oil and other fluids seep into planes with alarming frequency across all airlines.” That’s bad news for air travelers, bad news for cabin staff and bad news for pilots and co-pilots — all of whom have to contend with toxic fumes.

Now, it seems that lawmakers are planning to take action against these fumes — or, at the very least, they’re proposing that a course of action be taken. Senator Richard Blumenthal recently introduced a piece of legislation, the Cabin Air Safety Act of 2023, which would address some of the airline health and safety issues brought up by the Times investigation.

The proposed law would have several components, from educating consumers about the effects and characteristics of toxic fumes to implementing a system under which incidents involving toxic fumes on board an aircraft could be reported. It would also set in motion systems to detect such fumes on board aircraft.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the bill addressing the fumes has bipartisan backing, as well as the support of unions representing people who work on airlines every day. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Congress has sought to do something about this issue; the previous two attempts never made it out of the relevant committee.

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It sounds as though airlines may push back against this law. A representative for the industry organization Airlines for America argued that “scientific studies that validate a health concern, reliable and accurate sensor technologies, and detection standard” should come before any legislation in a statement to the Times.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the time is right for this law to pass. After all, the last few years have made plenty of people far more aware of the contents of the air that they breathe — something that might well apply here as well.

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