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Cognitive function and ill health in commercial airline pilots flying aircraft types associated with 'Contaminated Air Events': a group comparison study

Davis, K.; (2009) Cognitive function and ill health in commercial airline pilots flying aircraft types associated with 'Contaminated Air Events': a group comparison study. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

The literature review sought to identify whether there are any differences and risk factors associated with individuals who present to health services with 'medically unexplained symptoms'. A number of relevant factors were identified, although they were not consistently found across all the studies examined. Issues relating to methodology, classification, terminology, and social context are also considered, as are directions for future research. The empirical paper explored whether there might be differences between two groups of pi lots, both with a history of flying aircraft associated with 'contaminated air' or 'fume events'. (These can occur when unfiltered 'bleed air' used to pressurise the cabin becomes contaminated with heated (pyrolised) engine fuels, lubricants, and other toxic substances.) One pilot group, drawn from Mackenzie Ross' (2008) study, had sought out or had been referred to medical health professionals regarding symptoms of ill health, and attributed these to contaminated air, for which no causal link has yet been established. The other group ofpilots had not come forward reporting adverse health effects, nor had they been referred to medical experts, even though they continued to work in the same potentially hazardous environment. Differences between these two groups were explored by comparing pilots' cognitive function, symptoms of ill health, and symptom attribution. Although pilots not reporting symptoms of ill heath were found to perform significantly better on cognitive tasks than those who did, a closer inspection of the data revealed a number of interesting results that may be relevant for future research, such as a distinct and unusual similarity in the pattern of the cognitive profiles of both pilot groups. No significant differences were found with regard to symptom reporting and attribution, although there seemed to be a small emerging trend towards cognitive decline over time (independent of age). The critical appraisal discusses the methodological and other limitations of undertaking this study, draws attention to questions raised by the findings, and argues the case for more (larger scale) research to be undertaken in the future. It should be noted that this study was undertaken under the umbrella of a larger research project that was seeking to examine the effects of contaminated air on cognitive function in commercial airline pilots. As such, the study will to a degree cover some similar ground with regard to the measures used, data gathering, and testing procedures as Mackenzie Ross (2008), from which the data for the self-selected group is drawn, and Madeley (2008)1, who constructed the health questionnaire and clinical interview protocol (see Appendices).

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Cognitive function and ill health in commercial airline pilots flying aircraft types associated with 'Contaminated Air Events': a group comparison study
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis in two volumes: volume 2 is restricted
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of)

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