That Airport Smell: Is It Unhealthy?

8:40 AM, Mar 1, 2007   |    comments
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By Mike Owens I-Team KSDK - Travelers and workers at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport agree: the airport has a distinct odor, like a mixture of unburned fuel and gasoline. NewsChannel 5 talked to a number of airport workers, off the record, but with an undercover camera. The results were astounding: everyone working there complained of the odor, and several said they had taken their complaints to airport executives. The workers say the smell, which many said was like unburned diesel fuel, is better some days, and much worse on others. One worker told us that the smell the day we tested was mild compared to some days. Travelers, about half, also complained about the smell, concurring it smelled like gasoline fumes. We rented a device to test the quality of the airport air. It tested for carbon monoxide, which is an odorless gas, produced by the burning of gasoline, fuels, wood and even charcoal. Our tester showed up to 7 parts per million (ppm) of CO, which is the chemical abbreviation for the gas. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission says there is no certain impact from CO at such low levels, but that those with heart disease can suffer at low levels, as can young children. Airport officials say they do act on complaints about air quality, and air is often tested, and Gerard Slay, the deputy airport administrator, says the tests sometimes show the inside air is of higher quality than the outside air. Slay says sometimes there's a spike in complaints when trucks used by the airlines to haul baggage park outside air intake vents. But usually, that problem is quickly corrected when the trucks move, or are shut down.


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