American Airlines New Uniforms Made Flight Attendants Sick

When an employee gets a new uniform they likely never suspect it would cause adverse reactions. That is exactly what has happened to American Airlines (AA) employees. Last fall, the airline introduced a new uniform. Flight attendants complained about health reactions, including scratchy throats, rashes, hives, migraines, respiratory issues and thyroid problems, according to the Star-Telegram.

Read about chemicals in clothing

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) received reports from over 3,000 flight attendants about “suspected reactions to the uniforms,” according to a statement the union issued. The reports “describe suspected reactions that include rashes, hives, respiratory problems, and endocrine issues.” The APFA brought the problem to the attention of AA and created a web based form for flight attendants to report suspected reactions. They also sent out pieces of the uniform for preliminary chemical testing  and found it had levels of some chemicals that meet the textile industry standard, called the OEKO-TEX Standard. Those chemicals include formaldehyde, nickel and chromium. Cadmium is the only chemical that exceeded OEKO-TEX levels.

AA set up a hotline a few days after introducing the uniforms so employees could call about problems they were experiencing with the uniforms. The uniform’s manufacturer created versions with polyester and cotton and sixth months later added a fourth option for employees from Aramark, a different manufacturer and more than 4,600 employees ordered the Aramark uniforms in just one week.

“This has been a priority since we first heard of the reactions,” said American spokesman Ron DeFeo in a statement. “Science might say one thing but if we have team members that are uncomfortable, we are going to do whatever we can to help find a solution.”

While happy that AA has listened to the complaints of its employees by setting up a hotline and introducing an alternative uniform, the APFA makes it clear it “is not enough” but an “interim solution at best.” Bob Ross, APFA National President, said in a letter to APFA colleagues that the interim solution needs to be “followed by a permanent solution” and the union “will not rest until that happens.”

Twin Hill’s response to the APFA regarding the AA uniforms is one of denial and accused the union of issuing public statements that “ have been both inaccurate and damaging to Twin Hill 's reputation.”

The complaints by AA flight attendants are not the first time Twin Hill uniforms for an airline have been associated with complaints. The uniform manufacturer won a lawsuit in October filed by Alaska Airlines flight attendants who claimed Twin Hill uniforms caused skin irritation, hives, headaches, and respiratory issues. The suit was filed in 2013 by 164 Alaska Airlines flight attendants.

Read about organic clothes

Researchers at Stockholm University looked at chemicals in clothing and found thousands of chemicals in 60 garments from both Swedish and international clothing chains. Greenpeace lists a number of chemicals that are commonly used in textile manufacturing and present in clothing. One of those is alkylphenol compound which include nonylphenols (NPs). NPs are “widely used in the textiles industry in cleaning and dyeing processes,” according to Greenpeace and are toxic to aquatic life. They can also accumulate in body tissue and “increase in concentration through the food chain.”

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman| April 04, 2017
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!

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