ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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ASHRAE to Begin Study of Cabin Air Quality

New York, Jan 10, 2007

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)—a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)—has announced the launch of a research study that will examine the link between aircraft cabin air quality and health. Passengers and flight crew aboard 160 flights of varying duration will be surveyed on their experience with air quality and related factors.

The research gathered from this study will be used to inform future revisions of the ASHRAE standard, 161 P, Air Quality Within Commercial Aircraft, which is slated for publication later this year. The standard will define air quality requirements for commercial passenger aircraft and address methods of measuring and monitoring chemical, physical, and biological contaminants. Requirements for comfort factors, such as rate of change of cabin pressure, air temperatures, and minimum and maximum air velocities will also be included in the standard.

Set to begin early this year, the study will be carried out on several international and domestic airline routes. The flights that have been determined to show the greatest level of statistical variation will then be monitored for carbon monoxide and dioxide levels, respirable particles and volatile organic compounds.

Cabin air quality is among the most significant contributing factors to the health and well-being of travelers. Passengers and crew can experience reduced atmospheric pressure, air quality degradation, low relative humidity, and variable temperature, among other discomforting factors. Complaints of eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea and respiratory distress are common.

Results from the study could be used by manufacturers and airline companies, ASHRAE says, to modify aircraft design in ways that will improve air quality, or to make low-impact changes that better respond to passengers’ needs.

The study is the second of a two-part research project, and has the support of the Federal Aviation Administration. The first phase of the project, conducted in 2004, surveyed passengers and crew on flights out of Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Chicago and Seattle.

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