Ocular, nasal, dermal and general symptoms among commercial airline crews
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Objective. To study symptoms among a commercial cabin crew, in relation to personal risk factors, perceived psychosocial work environment, occupation, and work on intercontinental flights, with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
Methods. A standardized questionnaire (MM 040 NA) was mailed in February–March 1997 to all Stockholm aircrew on duty in a Scandinavian flight company (n=1,857), and office workers from the same company (n=218). During this time, smoking was allowed only on intercontinental flights. The participation rate was 81% (n=1,513) of the aircrew, and 77% (n=168) of the office group. Statistical analysis was performed by multiple logistic regression analysis, keeping age, gender, atopy, current smoking, occupation, and perceived psychosocial work conditions simultaneously in the model.
Results. The most common symptoms among the aircrew were fatigue (21%), nasal symptoms (15%), ocular symptoms (11%), dry or flushed facial skin (12%), and dermal hand symptoms (12%). The aircrew had more nasal (odds ratio (OR) = 3.12), throat (OR=5.75), and dermal symptoms on the face (OR=2.03), and hands (OR=3.68), than the office workers. The aircrew with a history of atopy had an increase of most symptoms (OR=1.5–3.8), but age, gender, or smoking was not associated with symptoms. Perceived stress due to excess of work was associated with fatigue (OR=7.33), feeling heavy-headed (OR=9.52), headache (OR=5.10), and facial dermal symptoms (OR=3.75), while those crew with better work control and work satisfaction had less fatigue. For most symptoms, there were no differences between different categories onboard, but pilots had fewer ocular (OR=0.28) nasal (OR=0.52), and dermal hand symptoms (OR=0.39). Airline crew that had been on an intercontinental flight the previous week had more complaints of fatigue (OR=1.87), heavy-headedness (OR=1.89), and difficulties concentrating (OR=3.22).
Conclusion. There was an association between symptoms and work stress, lack of influence on working conditions, atopy, and work on intercontinental flights where smoking was allowed. In view of the increase of civil aviation, the working conditions for aircrews need further attention.
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