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Rev Environ Health. 2002 Jan-Mar;17(1):1-49.

Trends in cabin air quality of commercial aircraft: industry and passenger perspectives.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Erratum in

  • Rev Environ Health. 2002 Jul-Sep;17(3):248..


The small air space available per person in a fully occupied aircraft passenger cabin accentuates the human bioeffluent factor in the maintenance of air quality. The accumulation of carbon dioxide and other contributions to poor air quality that can occur with inadequate ventilation, even under normal circumstances, is related to the volume of available air space per person and various ventilation rates. This information is compared with established air quality guidelines to make specific recommendations with reference to aircraft passenger cabins under both normal and abnormal operating conditions. The effects of respiration on the air quality of any enclosed space from the respiration of a resting adult are estimated using standard equations. Results are given for different volumes of space per person, for zero air exchange, and for various air change rates. The required ventilation rates estimated in this way compared closely with results calculated using a standard empirical formula. The results confirm that the outside air ventilation required to achieve a target carbon dioxide concentration in the air of an occupied enclosed space remains the same regardless of the volume of that space. The outside air ventilation capability of older and more recent aircraft is then reviewed and compared with the actual measurements of cabin air quality for these periods. The correlation between calculated and measured aircraft cabin carbon dioxide concentrations from other studies was very good. Respiratory benefits and costs of returning to the 30% higher outside air ventilation rates and 8% higher cabin pressures of the 1960s and 1970s are outlined. Consideration is given to the occasional occurrence of certain types of aircraft malfunction that can introduce more serious contaminants to the aircraft cabin. Recommendations and suggestions for aircraft builders and operators are made that will help improve aircraft cabin air quality and the partial pressure of oxygen that is available to passengers at minimal cost. Also suggested are some measures that passengers can take to help improve their comfort and decrease their risk of illness, particularly on long-haul flights.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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