Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Tricresyl phosphate


Sensory effects in eyes and airways are common symptoms reported by aircraft crew and office workers. Neurological symptoms, such as headache, have also been reported. To assess the commonality and differences in exposures and health symptoms, a literature search of aircraft cabin and office air concentrations of non-reactive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone-initiated terpene reaction products were compiled and assessed. Data for tricresyl phosphates, in particular tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (ToCP), were also compiled, as well as information on other risk factors such as low relative humidity. A conservative health risk assessment for eye, airway and neurological effects was undertaken based on a “worst-case scenario” which assumed a simultaneous constant exposure for 8h to identified maximum concentrations in aircraft and offices. This used guidelines and reference values for sensory irritation for eyes and upper airways and airflow limitation; a tolerable daily intake value was used for ToCP. The assessment involved the use of hazard quotients or indexes, defined as the summed ratio(s) (%) of compound concentration(s) divided by their guideline value(s). The concentration data suggest that, under the assumption of a conservative “worst-case scenario”, aircraft air and office concentrations of the compounds in question are not likely to be associated with sensory symptoms in eyes and airways. This is supported by the fact that maximum concentrations are, in general, associated with infrequent incidents and brief exposures. Sensory symptoms, in particular in eyes, appear to be exacerbated by environmental and occupational conditions that differ in aircraft and offices, e.g., ozone incidents, low relative humidity, low cabin pressure, and visual display unit work. The data do not support airflow limitation effects. For ToCP, in view of the conservative approach adopted here and the rareness of reported incidents, the health risk of exposure to this compound in aircraft is considered negligible.

Concepts: Evaluation, Risk, Assessment, Humidity, Relative humidity, Volatile organic compound, Tricresyl phosphate, Cabin pressurization


Exposure to tricresyl phosphates (TCPs), via for example contaminated cabin air, has been associated with health effects including the so-called aerotoxic syndrome. While TCP neurotoxicity is mainly attributed to ortho-isomers like tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (ToCP), recent exposure and risk assessments indicate that ToCP levels in cabin air are very low. However, the neurotoxic potential of non-ortho TCP isomers and TCP mixtures is largely unknown. We therefore measured effects of exposure (up to 48h) to different TCP isomers, mixtures and the metabolite of ToCP (CBDP: cresyl saligenin phosphate) on cell viability and mitochondrial activity, spontaneous neuronal electrical activity, and neurite outgrowth in primary rat cortical neurons. The results demonstrate that exposure to TCPs (24-48h, up to 10μM) increases mitochondrial activity, without affecting cell viability. Effects of acute TCP exposure (30min) on neuronal electrical activity are limited. However, electrical activity is markedly decreased for the majority of TCPs (10μM) following 48h exposure. Additional preliminary data indicate that exposure to TCPs (48h, 10μM) did not affect the number of neurites per cell or average neurite length, except for TmCP and the analytical TCP mixture (Sigma) that induced a reduction of average neurite length. The combined neurotoxicity data demonstrate that the different TCPs, including ToCP, are roughly equipotent and a clear structure-activity relation is not apparent for the studied endpoints. The no-observed-effect-concentrations (1μM) are well above current exposure levels indicating limited neurotoxic health risk, although exposures may have been higher in the past. Moreover, prolonged and/or repeated exposure to TCPs may exacerbate the observed neurotoxic effects, which argues for additional research.

Concepts: Organophosphates, Tricresyl phosphate


As polybrominated diphenyl ethers are phased out, numerous compounds are emerging as potential replacement flame retardants for use in consumer and electronic products. Little is known, however, about the neurobehavioral toxicity of these replacements. This study evaluated the neurobehavioral effects of acute or developmental exposure to t-butylphenyl diphenyl phosphate (BPDP), 2-ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate (EHDP), isodecyl diphenyl phosphate (IDDP), isopropylated phenyl phosphate (IPP), tricresyl phosphate (TMPP; also abbreviated TCP), triphenyl phosphate (TPHP; also abbreviated TPP), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), tris (1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate (TDCIPP; also abbreviated TDCPP), tri-o-cresyl phosphate (TOCP), and 2,2-,4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-47) in zebrafish (Danio rerio) larvae. Larvae (n≈24 per dose per compound) were exposed to test compounds (0.4 - 120 μM) at sub-teratogenic concentrations either developmentally or acutely, and locomotor activity was assessed at 6 days post fertilization. When given developmentally, all chemicals except BPDP, IDDP and TBBPA produced behavioral effects. When given acutely, all chemicals produced behavioral effects, with TPHP, TBBPA, EHDP, IPP, and BPDP eliciting the most effects at the most concentrations. The results indicate that these replacement flame retardants may have developmental or pharmacological effects on the vertebrate nervous system.

Concepts: Nervous system, Pharmacology, Fish, Chemical compound, Danio kyathit, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Tricresyl phosphate


Possible exposure to TriCresyl Phosphates (TCPs) has led to concerns among airline crew members. One isomer, Tri-ortho-Cresyl Phosphate (ToCP) is known to be neurotoxic and exposure to ToCP via contaminated cabin air has been suggested to be associated with the alleged Aerotoxic syndrome. The symptoms associated with Aerotoxic syndrome are diverse, including headaches, loss of balance, numbness and neurobehavioral abnormalities such as emotional instability, depression and cognitive dysfunction. Other ortho-isomers are toxic as well, but the non-ortho isomers are regarded as less toxic. In a collaborative effort to increase insight into the possible association between exposure to TCPs via contaminated cabin air and Aerotoxic syndrome, we performed an exposure- and toxicological risk assessment. Measurements in KLM 737 aircraft have demonstrated the presence of non-ortho isomers in low concentrations, though ToCP and other ortho-isomers could not be detected. Based on this exposure assessment, we established a toxicological risk model that also takes into account human differences in bioactivation and detoxification to derive a hazard quotient. From this model it appears unlikely that the health effects and alleged Aerotoxic syndrome are due to exposure to ToCP. Alternative explanations for the reported symptoms are discussed, but evaluation of the current findings in light of the criteria for occupational disease leads to the conclusion that the Aerotoxic Syndrome cannot be regarded as such. Additional research is thus required to unravel the underlying causes for the reported health complaints.

Concepts: Evaluation, Risk, Symptoms, Toxicology, Toxicity, Risk assessment, Organophosphates, Tricresyl phosphate


Tricresyl phosphate (TCP), and in particular its tri-ortho substituted isomer (o,o,o-TCP), has been frequently used in aircraft engine oil. Bleed air, provided to the flight deck and cabin can contain traces of TCP. TCP can cause neurotoxic effects in humans. Regularly, airline pilots complain about loss of memory, headaches, dizziness, tunnel vision and other neurotoxic effects. The concentrations of TCP reported in flight deck air (max. ca. 50-100ngm(-3) total TCP) do not exceed provisional toxicity thresholds. These thresholds, however, contain a very high uncertainty and need further underpinning. The many non-detects and relatively low TCP concentrations reported suggest that TCP on its own is not likely to be responsible for the reported health problems of pilots. Specific conditions in air planes and other toxic compounds present in bleed air, whether or not in combination with TCP, may be responsible for the reported neurotoxic syndromes. Sensitivity of individuals seems to be an important factor as well. The clinical signs observed with a selected group of pilots are serious enough to call for further elucidation of this issue.

Concepts: Toxicity, Syndrome, Fixed-wing aircraft, Aircraft, Deck, Aircraft engine, Flight deck, Tricresyl phosphate