fume n. any smokelike or vaporous exhalation from matter or substances, especially of an odorous or harmful nature. (Emphases added)
As you can see, all these words are synonymous. Yet in all of our fleets we have multiple checklists to run depending on how we define what our noses detect.
The most important step is to protect yourself from these potentially toxic and harmful fumes by immediately donning your oxygen mask, then establishing crew communications. Once all checklists are completed, flight attendants are briefed, passengers are informed, and you land your airplane safely, what else, if anything, should you do for yourself?
The answer involves your blood — you should immediately seek medical attention and have your blood tested. You specifically want the medical facility to test for heavy metals and CO (carbon monoxide) in your blood. This test must be completed as soon possible; preferably within four hours, but no later than eight hours after your fume event, as the CO and possibly heavy metals will be out of your blood and unable to be detected. Carboxyhemoglobin levels of about 10% indicate CO exposure.
The APA Safety Committee has seen a significant increase in the number and intensity of fume events across all fleets. These fume events pose a significant health risk. In July 2015, engine oil leaked into the bleed air of an Airbus and the captain died two months post event, likely from toxic fume exposure.
So remember, if you encounter fumes, smoke, vapor, or odor:
- Protect yourself — don your oxygen masks.
- Establish crew communications.
- Get your blood tested.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your APA Safety Committee at 817-302-2150.