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Arch Toxicol. 2013 Apr;87(4):645-8. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0978-0. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

Occupational exposure of air crews to tricresyl phosphate isomers and organophosphate flame retardants after fume events.

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Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance, Institute of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany.


Aircraft cabin air can possibly be contaminated by tricresyl phosphates (TCP) from jet engine oils during fume events. o-TCP, a known neurotoxin, has been addressed to be an agent that might cause the symptoms reported by cabin crews after fume events. A total of 332 urine samples of pilots and cabin crew members in common passenger airplanes, who reported fume/odour during their last flight, were analysed for three isomers of tricresyl phosphate metabolites as well as dialkyl and diaryl phosphate metabolites of four flame retardants. None of the samples contained o-TCP metabolites above the limit of detection (LOD 0.5 μg/l). Only one sample contained metabolites of m- and p-tricresyl phosphates with levels near the LOD. Median metabolite levels of tributyl phosphate (TBP), tris-(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) and triphenyl phosphate (TPP) (DBP 0.28 μg/l; BCEP 0.33 μg/l; DPP 1.1 μg/l) were found to be significantly higher than in unexposed persons from the general population. Median tris-(2-chloropropyl) phosphate (TCPP) metabolite levels were significantly not higher in air crews than in controls. Health complaints reported by air crews can hardly be addressed to o-TCP exposure in cabin air. Elevated metabolite levels for TBP, TCEP and TPP in air crews might occur due to traces of hydraulic fluid in cabin air (TBP, TPP) or due to release of commonly used flame retardants from the highly flame protected environment in the airplane. A slight occupational exposure of air crews to organophosphates was shown.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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