NL- Schiphol and KLM ignored warnings from health and safety services about increased health risks for runway staff for some 15 years, according to investigative research program Zembla. The Dutch airport and airline were informed in 2007 that runway workers and other staff that work in planes’ exhaust fumes daily are at increased risk for heart disease and lung cancer, the program reported based on confidential reports.
Health and safety services advised KLM and Schiphol to limit staff members’ exposure to harmful exhaust fumes “as far as possible.” But that did not happen, Zembla reported. About 20,000 employees work on the Schiphol runways and platform every day. Employees told the program that they breathe in the fumes of idling and taxiing aircraft all day long.
In the reports in Zembla’s possession, the health and safety experts pointed out that the ultrafine particles in planes’ exhaust fumes contain carcinogens that can also damage heart function. Anonymous employees told the program that a striking number of their colleagues developed cancer. “All before they reached retirement age.”
Trade union FNV is furious. “We see that our members get sick and die earlier as a result of their work,” a spokesperson said to Zembla. “That damage must be compensated.”
In a response, Schiphol told Zembla that it and the aviation sector would investigate how they could better protect their personnel. The Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate also started an investigation, the program said.