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Toxic chemicals in uniform pieces

08 Sep, 2022

The uniforms Delta is forcing us to wear contain toxic chemicals. In some cases, pieces have nearly ten times the limit set by clothing companies like H&M.

AFA commissioned third party laboratory tests of samples of some of the “new” uniform garments. The results show that many of the garments tested contain chemicals like chromium, hexavalent chromium, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and polyfluorinated stain-retardant compounds (PFAS). Also, all of the shirts that the lab tested contained formaldehyde which is an irritant, allergen, and probable carcinogen. Even at low levels, formaldehyde can cause a reaction in sensitized individuals.

Sign the uniform petition and then sign your union card so we have legal standing to protect ourselves.

Here’s a snapshot of what we found in some of the garments:

  • Ladies’ scarf: contained chromium up to almost seven times the H&M limit; also, some hexavalent chromium;
  • Charcoal men’s “untreated” non-wool pants: contained PCE above the Oeko-Tex limit;
  • Plum-colored wool blend ladies’ pants: suiting contained chromium above the H&M limit and lining contained hexavalent chromium;
  • Plum-colored polyester IFS “exclusive” dress: suiting contained chromium approaching the H&M limit and contained hexavalent chromium; nickel in the buttons;
  • Red outerwear coat: contained chromium at almost 10 times the H&M limit; also contained hexavalent chromium above the Oeko-Tex standard, and PFOA
  • Testing also found hexavalent chromium and PFOA in the original charcoal apron.

This issue is not “all in our head.” These findings are consistent with Flight Attendants’ reports of reactions and ill health from wearing the uniform. Also, the presence of carcinogens and allergens serves as a reminder that even those wearing the uniforms without issue today may experience symptoms in the future from continued exposure.

Delta management has not lived up to their promise to provide new uniforms. Instead, some Flight Attendants have been forced to either compromise their health or take unpaid leave. Enough is enough.

Delta must keep their promise to issue a completely new uniform. And they must immediately allow any Flight Attendants experiencing reactions to wear a look-a-like gray uniform, return to the line, and be compensated for lost time and benefits

You can read the full report here, including which uniform pieces have the highest risk and what the testing revealed about these uniforms.

This issue has been ongoing for more than two years—and hundreds of Flight Attendants have reported serious health issues that they maintain because of the uniforms Delta required them to wear. Even if you haven’t had a reaction yet, some of the chemicals in these fabrics are cause for concern. For example, some are suspected carcinogens and others are allergens, which means you can develop an intolerance over time.

Delta management must take action to protect our health and make this right. But this is another example that we can’t count on management to look out for us. They count on us to “make it work,” with our own money and creativity - but it’s management’s actions that put us at risk, and when many of us got sick, they tried to say “it’s all in our head.” They even sent Flight Attendants to psych evaluations over this - trying to make us feel crazy for now clearly explainable reactions. That is mean-spirited, dehumanizing, and simply wrong. We can’t let it go on.

With a union and a legally-binding contract, we could have addressed this long ago. AFA-represented work groups have clearly defined health and safety rules that management can’t just ignore. And when there’s a problem - even for just a few individuals - the union works with management to ensure there are alternatives.

We won’t be able to stop Delta from putting many of us in an impossible situation until we have a union. Sign your card today, and join our campaign for a voice and legal standing at Delta.

In Unity,
Delta AFA

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