Alaska Airline flight attendants reported health complaints related to new uniforms rolled out in 2011 (1). By 2014, approximately 800 flight attendants had complained about how the new uniforms were negatively impacting their health, which led to Alaska Airlines recalling the uniforms, though without acknowledging harm. These flight attendants had reported a wide range of sometimes debilitating symptoms, including dry and itchy eyes, eye pain, blurred vision, sinus congestion and pain, ear pain, ear drum rupture, ear infections, nosebleeds, persistent runny nose and sore throat, ringing ears, cough, hoarseness/loss of voice, wheezing, lung infection symptoms, asthma symptoms, bronchitis symptoms, shortness of breath, multiple chemical sensitivity symptoms, itchy/irritated skin, and rashes/hives (2). The research recently published by Dr. McNeely and colleagues suggests these health symptoms could be associated with the uniforms, based on data from before, during, and after use of the uniforms among Alaska Airlines flight attendants.
In 2016, American Airlines flight attendants started to complain about health symptoms after switching to uniforms manufactured by the same company that produced the 2011 Alaska Airline uniforms.
Dr. Mordukhovich, one of the study’s authors, suggests the next step to solve this mystery is to conduct rigorous and comprehensive testing of uniforms, which is currently taking place through the Harvard School of Public Health.
1. Air Safety, Health and Security Department. Air Safety, Health and security department. 2017. http://ashsd.afacwa.org/?zone=%2Funionactive%2Fview_article.cfm&HomeID=160011. Accessed May 2018.
2. McNeely, et. al. Symptoms Related to New Flight attendant Uniforms. BMC Public Health (2017). Accessed May 2018