Hearing before the Paris Court of Appeal

On September 18, 2023, a press release was published by our French partner AVSA. Here is the English version, at the bottom of this page you’ll find a link to the original (French) message.

Important Press Release from AVSA

On September 27th, there will be a hearing before the Paris Court of Appeal for the purpose of admitting the “Association des Victimes du Syndrome Aérotoxique” (AVSA) and the personnel of the airline company Air France as civil parties to an ongoing judicial information procedure conducted by the public health center investigation service in Paris. The charges include:

  • Involuntary injuries resulting in total incapacity for work for more than three months, as provided for and punished by articles 222-19, 222-44, and 222-46 of the Penal Code;
  • Endangering the lives of others by manifestly deliberate violation of a regulatory obligation of safety or prudence, as provided for and punished by articles 223-1, 223-18, and 223-20 of the Penal Code.

This judicial information follows a complaint filed in 2016 by two pilots of the airline easyJet, who were exposed to substances contaminating the aircraft cabin. The health consequences of these exposures are grouped under the term “Aerotoxic Syndrome.” This syndrome, which can affect both passengers and flight crew, results from acute or chronic contamination of the pressurized air of aircraft by toxic substances.

On almost all airliners, the air breathed on board is taken from the bleed air from the engines. This air is contaminated, among other things, by the oil used for their lubrication. It is distributed in the cabin of aircraft without a filtration device. To ensure high performance, most aeronautical oils contain toxic additives, including organophosphates. Organophosphates are used in the composition of combat gases or powerful pesticides. Some of the contaminants are nanometric in size (nanoparticles).

The nature of the contaminants is detailed in numerous reports, including those of the European Aviation Safety Agency (Cabin Air Quality). This exposure, whether chronic or acute, can lead to disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system, possibly reducing the neurocognitive abilities of aircrews. Exposure of personnel would therefore have a definite impact on flight safety (DGAC SAFETY INFO N° 2020/05 – SAFETY ALERT FOR OPERATORS “SAFO” FAA N°18003).

To date, neither airlines nor manufacturers have taken stock of the risks incurred by cabin crew and passengers. This is what the two pilots denounced in their initial complaint. The judicial investigation is underway, and a judicial expertise would have confirmed this situation.

Today, AVSA and other victims wish to become civil parties alongside the two initial plaintiffs, but this is refused to them, even though this phenomenon is likely to affect the health and safety of all aircrew and passengers.

This risk is, however, known to the French Courts. Thus, in December 2012, the Court of Cassation recalled that “there was a serious risk of accidental pollution by vaporization of chemical substances contained in motor oil, that the products contained in this oil were potentially neurotoxic and included in table n° 34 of occupational diseases since 1975, that other contaminations by other chemicals were possible during de-icing operations and that the seriousness of the risk was sufficiently characterized by the extent of the foreseeable damage; that in the state of these findings from which it deduced that the serious risk of harm to the health of employees and passengers was established” (Cass. Soc., December 19, 2012, no. 11-11.799).

More recently, two civil courts have recognized the occupational nature of illnesses resulting from these exposures as well as the inexcusable fault of the employer. However, in Paris, the investigating judge in charge of this case refuses to broaden his referral and refuses the requests for acts submitted by the civil parties aimed at establishing the causal link between the negligence committed by the airlines and the manufacturers and the state of health of many aircrew.

On behalf of AVSA,

The President, Stéphane PASQUALINI

Treasurer, ERIC BAILET

Read the original Press Release via this link