ATLANTA - The U.S. Senate passed legislation calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct a study of air quality in the cabins of U.S. airliners.

The measure was put forth by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and, in her address to the Senate, she supported her argument for further study of the quality and safety of cabin air with a 2009 letter from American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Presidential Member William Harrison, in which he called on the FAA to “investigate and determine the requirements for bleed air contaminant monitoring and solutions to prevent bleed air contamination.”

“I agree with the ASHRAE recommendation that we need to study this problem and take steps to protect public health and safety,” Feinstein said, in presenting the measure as an amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. “I offer this amendment in order to implement ASHRAE’s very sound recommendations, and I encourage my colleagues to support it.”

In the letter, Harrison urged the FAA to consider adopting ASHRAE Standard 161-2007, Air Quality Within Commercial Aircraft, which covers issues such as temperature, cabin pressure, air contaminants, and ventilation rates. 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.

Harrison’s letter was submitted to be included in the Congressional Record.

“The Senate legislation is a move in the right direction for aircraft passenger safety and comfort,” said Doug Read, program director of government affairs for ASHRAE. “The Society works hard to ensure federal legislation captures the important work and expertise of ASHRAE in all aspects, and utilizes this expertise to advance and protect the needs of the general public. Standard 161 is an example of ASHRAE’s expertise in other areas and provides yet another avenue towards this goal.”

As an amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, the measure will “ensure that the FAA has the information it needs to protect the public from harmful toxins in ventilation systems on commercial aircraft.”

“ASHRAE is pleased to hear of this amendment; we have long urged for this issue to be addressed by the FAA,” said ASHRAE President Gordon Holness. “Raising awareness to the necessity of high standards for indoor air quality, whether in a building or an airplane, helps to further the Society’s mission of serving humanity through advancing HVACR technology.

“ASHRAE will continue to reach out to FAA and offer Standard 161 as guidance as it begins its investigations in cabin air quality, with the hope that this results in stronger regulations to control indoor air quality in aircraft cabins.”

The measure now must be considered by both chambers for inclusion in the final bill to reauthorize the FAA.

Publication date:04/12/2010