A study published in May concluded that reduced air pressure and oxygen levels on planes do not increase a passenger’s risk of blood clots in the legs. The report supports what airlines have been saying for years: deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is not their fault. The courts agree, but perhaps only for the present.
The condition is often called “economy class syndrome” and it has been connected to long-distance travel since the 1950s. For years it was blamed on the reduced air pressure and oxygen levels in plane cabins, a theory that led to several highly publicized incidents and contributed to a landmark lawsuit against the airlines.
In 2002 55 DVT victims and their families filed suit, naming 27 airlines including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, KLM, Quantas Airways Ltd, Japan Air Lines, and Virgin Atlantic. The airlines argued that DVT was neither a flying disease nor an accident as defined by the Warsaw Convention
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2006-05-24.