Nation’s First Airplane Cabin Air Quality Standard Published

ATLANTA – Summer travel season has now officially kicked off. Millions of people make conscious choices about which airline they choose, how much they are willing to pay for a ticket, and of course about their destinations. But one aspect of air travel that consumers may not think about is one that can have an impact on their health and how they feel.

Proper air quality is essential for general health and well-being in indoor spaces. Recognizing this, most people will take steps to address air quality in their homes and workplaces, but what about when on board an airplane when passengers have no control in a very high-density environment?

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) addresses air cabin air quality in its new Standard 161-2007, Air Quality Within Commercial Aircraft. The standard, which covers issues such as temperature, cabin pressure, air contaminants and ventilation rates, can be voluntarily adopted by individual airlines or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or advocated for by airline passenger and employee groups.

“Compliance with this standard will go a long ways toward ensuring good air quality for passengers and crews,” says Byron Jones, chair of the committee that wrote the standard. “Aircraft passengers and crew make up a wide cross section of the general population, ranging from the very young to the very old, from the healthy to infirm. And unlike many other indoor environments, occupants do not have the ability to remove themselves from the environment, which is at a lower pressure and relative humidity than that found in many other environments. Standard 161 will help create a healthier, more enjoyable ride for the great variety of passengers on board.”

The standard also addresses chemical, physical and biological contaminants that could affect air quality as well. Methods of testing are provided for ensuring compliance with the standard’s requirements.

Standard 161 applies to commercial passenger air-carrier aircraft carrying 20 or more passengers. It is intended to apply to all phases of flight operations and to ground operations when the aircraft is occupied by passengers or crew members.

ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is an international organization of 50,000 persons. ASHRAE fulfills its mission of advancing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world through research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education.