KING 5 News in Seattle, Wash., first broke the news about the “mystery illness” that has reportedly affected at least 280 flight attendants thus far. According to accounts, those afflicted by the condition say they have developed persistently itchy skin, skin lesions, and hair loss, all of which they suspect may have to do with newer flight uniforms that allegedly contain tributyl phosphate, a toxic organophosphorus compound linked to skin problems.
The attendants have complained that the outfits, which may be contaminated with a toxic chemical, have caused itching, hair loss and other unpleasant reactions.
In a letter to the company’s president, union leaders representing Alaska Airlines employees demanded that the uniforms are changed.
The Association of Flight Attendants says that 280 flight stewards – roughly one in 10 of the total workforce – have suffered from the side effects since the new uniforms were introduced last year.
One of the flight attendants told KING5 on Thursday night, ‘I’ve never had a uniform like this. I broke out this week. I broke out on my back first, then on my legs.’
The attendant said he didn’t know whether the uniform was definitely the cause of the rash but added: ‘I didn’t have it until I flew six, seven days in a row and then I started breaking out.’
It is thought that the smart navy blue suits, made by TwinHill, may be contaminated with the chemical tributyl phosphate, a toxic substance used in synthetic textile manufacturing.
An airline spokesman said that two alternative uniforms have been provided to those employees who have suffered any outbreaks.
Andy Schneider, Alaska Airlines vice president of in-flight services, said in a statement to KING5 that tests on the uniforms had been carried out in three different laboratories but that the source of the problem had not been discovered.