So how safe are you?

So how safe are you?
Updated 12 January 2015

So how safe are you?

So how safe are you?

A Middle Eastern court ruled that a former flight attendant be paid $300,000 for being exposed to a toxic gas (an aviation hydraulic fluid) which she inhaled aboard a plane. The gas leak had occurred in the flight attendant’s section minutes before takeoff. What with Ebola currently leading the charge in the ‘viruses by air’ category, aircraft tubes are literally as infectious as hospitals and now a cause for concern.
In another such instance in the UK, a flight had to be aborted in midair shortly after takeoff when fumes filled the cabin. The immediate suspicion was that it could have been a case of de-icing chemicals getting into the air-conditioning system.
These may be unusual cases of contamination of cabin air by the inadvertent introduction of chemicals. However, they do focus attention on the dangers of being trapped in the skies in a cabin environment where the air quality may leave much to be desired.
These illustrations raise the question: Is there a link between cabin air quality and the comfort and health of passengers and crew? The issue has gained prominence in recent years because of the rapid rise in air travel and the increasing distances traveled by the passengers and the proliferation of airborne diseases as well as exchange of germs over 14 hours from fellow passengers.
An airplane is like a long cigar filled with pressurized air and just enough oxygen to sustain physiological functions. Toxic contamination could very easily upset this delicate equilibrium. Numerous chemicals present in cabin air could influence comfort and health. When combined with other factors such as temperature, humidity, noise, light levels and motion, the result could be more than just a heady cocktail.
In fact, passengers and crew have often reported symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory distress, headache, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. However, research by government agencies, research groups and airplane manufacturers has not come up with clear-cut and unambiguous associations between cabin air quality and the reported symptoms. For example, a study by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) and another sponsored by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) have, in fact, shown that air on commercial flights is very clean, with cabin-air microbe counts being smaller than those in "your own house, lower than in the building you work in." But the fears persist and anecdotal evidence keeps mounting.
In fact, the feeling among passengers and crew is that there is "a worrying lack of research and in-flight testing of cabin air quality" and little has been done to improve in-flight air despite the spate of reports of possible on-board contamination. This failure of the airline industry to respond to repeated warnings around the world about cabin fumes hasn’t done much to inspire confidence among the traveling public that their health in the skies is being adequately looked after.
The key cabin air quality parameters in flight are the blood oxygen saturation of crew members and passengers, pressures and rates of change, temperature, air movement, humidity, ventilation rate and concentrations of common pollutants, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ozone, fuel gases, organophosphates and other chemicals and self-reported health and comfort.
One concern relates to the fact that a large percentage of the air in the cabin is recirculated. In the earlier days, aircraft used to ventilate cabins with fresh air, providing around 20 cubic feet per minute per passenger. But, given the need to curb fuel consumption to reduce costs, airlines have reduced the amount of outside air taken from the engines by recirculating some of the cabin air. In modern aircraft the recirculated air could constitute up to 50 percent of the cabin air, halving the fresh air flow to 10 cubic feet per minute.
One requirement with recirculated air is to have a system of filters to remove bacteria, spores and other harmful agents and contaminants that could come from passengers — through coughing, sneezing or even their movement. These potentially harmful micro-organisms are generally invisible and odorless, so if the filters are not
efficient, the recirculated air could well be infectious and hazardous.
Cabins are routinely disinfected to minimize the risk of insects carrying diseases (such as malaria and dengue fever) being on the flight. While most studies show that the pesticides used do not have adverse human effects, the long-term health effects of repeated exposure to possibly fairly high levels of the pesticides needs to be evaluated.
Temperature does not fluctuate too much in normal aircraft cabin conditions and is considered more a comfort rather than health issue.
Its most obvious effects are in the generation of body odour and the rate of emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which affects pollutant concentration in cabin air. Humidity also affects thermal comfort. In general, temperature affects the rate of dehydration of passengers and crew, with the elderly and infants being the most
susceptible to temperature extremes. One other area of discomfort is related to the sharp changes in temperature that occur between cabin and outside ambient air, when boarding or disembarking.
Low humidity can affect health and comfort, depending on the duration of exposure and other factors like temperature, water ingestion, etc.
Potential problems include drying of the body surface (mucous membranes and skin), dehydration and effects on thermal comfort (feeling cooler at lower RH, especially at higher temperatures). Low humidity also prevents colonization by the fungi and mites. However, allergens have a tendency to adhere to clothing and can collect on
aircraft seats if they are not adequately cleaned.
So, in the final analysis, while the airlines and industry people say the air quality in the cabins up in the skies is safe, passengers and crew often continue to think otherwise. But there are some precautions you can keep in mind the next time you decide to take a flight. Drink water to keep hydrated. If the air feels stuffy or you feel dizzy and nauseous, tell the cabin crew immediately. Ask them to investigate and to also tell the pilot to increase the airflow. If you land up paying a visit to a doctor after a flight, mention the fact to him.
Fly safer.


Canadian firm pulls out of Carrefour takeover after France insists ‘No’

Canadian firm pulls out of Carrefour takeover after France insists ‘No’
Updated 16 January 2021

Canadian firm pulls out of Carrefour takeover after France insists ‘No’

Canadian firm pulls out of Carrefour takeover after France insists ‘No’
  • Carrefour has more than 12,300 stores in more than 30 countries and employs 320,000 people worldwide
  • Canada's Couche-Tard has offered to take over the French supermarket giant for 16 billion euro ($19.5 billion)

PARIS: Canadian convenience store chain Couche-Tard has reportedly pulled out of a multi-billion euro takeover of supermarket giant Carrefour after the French government said it would veto the deal.
Negotiations over the 16 billion euro ($19.5 billion) deal ended after a meeting between the French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire and the founder of Couche-Tard Alain Bouchard, Bloomberg news agency said, citing sources.
French ministers had insisted Friday they would not agree to the takeover because it could jeopardize food security, an even more important consideration given the coronavirus pandemic.
In an attempt to reassure ministers, Bouchard had promised to invest billions in Carrefour, said he would maintain employment for two years and that the group would be listed on the Paris Stock Exchange in parallel with Canada, Bloomberg reported.
Contacted by AFP, neither Couche-Tard nor Carrefour had confirmed the information on Friday evening.
Although talks had stopped, anonymous sources cited by Bloomberg said negotiations could resume if the French government changes its position.
But on Friday, France’s Economy Minister made his choice public, telling BMTV and RMC: “My position is a polite, but clear and definitive ‘No’.”
“Food security is a strategic consideration for our country and one does not just hand over one of the large French distributors like that,” Le Maire said.
“Carrefour is the biggest private sector employer in France with nearly 100,000 employees,” he noted, and the group accounts for 20 percent of the food distribution market in the country.
The French statements have not convinced the Canadian government.
A Canadian federal source said while they could understand concerns over allowing a foreign firm to take over such a large national employer, concerns over food security were unsubstantiated.
“But we cannot accuse a leading Canadian company like Couche-Tard of endangering the food sovereignty of an entire country,” the source, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

'Food sovereignty'
On Wednesday, Couche-Tard submitted a non-binding offer for Carrefour, valuing the group at more than 16 billion euros ($19.5 billion).
Le Maire made clear immediately that he was not in favor of a deal involving “an essential link in food security for the French, of food sovereignty.”
The government’s reaction had caused “surprise” at Carrefour itself, according to sources who said the comments were “premature” given that merger discussions had barely begun.
“We haven’t decided yet whether the interest shown is attractive for us,” one company official said on condition of anonymity earlier in the week.
Carrefour has more than 12,300 stores of various formats in more than 30 countries and in 2019 generated a net profit of 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) on revenue of 80.7 billion euros ($97.4 billion).
It employs 320,000 people worldwide.
Couche-Tard has a worldwide network of more than 14,200 stores and earned a net profit of $2.4 billion on sales of $54 billion in its last complete year.
In the United States and several European countries, as well as in Latin America and southeast Asia, it operates under Circle K and other brands.