3 On Your Side

American Airlines employees are 'itching' over new uniforms

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Employees with American Airlines say they have photos that show skin rashes, hives, even respiratory problems linked to the uniforms. (Source: 3TV) Employees with American Airlines say they have photos that show skin rashes, hives, even respiratory problems linked to the uniforms. (Source: 3TV)
American Airlines said it won't recall the uniforms. (Source: 3TV) American Airlines said it won't recall the uniforms. (Source: 3TV)
One employee posted that the uniforms were making her literally sick. (Source: 3TV) One employee posted that the uniforms were making her literally sick. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

When American Airlines rolled out their new uniforms last September the company was itching to get the word out. They even produced a behind the scenes photo shoot that 3 On Your Side found.

But all that excitement came to a screeching halt when the unexpected happened. Dr. Trevor Thompson is a dermatologist with Banner Health.

"It can be quite severe for some individuals," Thompson said.

Employees with American Airlines say photos found on social media pretty much say it all. Skin rashes, hives, even respiratory problems. They're all complaints employees say they have suffered after receiving and wearing those new uniforms. 

"You can definitely develop a textile contact dermatitis," Thompson said.

He hasn't treated any American Airline employees or investigated their complaints. However, 3 On Your Side wanted to know if the material can really cause health problems. According to Dr. Thompson, the answer is yes, and the results can be debilitating.

"Trying to work throughout the day when you're itchy and uncomfortable is not pleasant," Thompson said.

3 On Your Side has received a steady stream of complaints from American Airlines employees since their uniforms rolled out last year.

However, no employees would speak to us on camera for fear of losing their jobs. Still, some employees have gone public like one flight attendant who posted on social media that quote, "My uniform makes me sick."

Thompson hasn't inspected the uniforms but tells 3 On Your Side that dyes are a likely cause of skin irritation.

"These are chemicals that are used as the dispersed dyes that are used to provided color for the fabric," Thompson said.

 Chemicals like formaldehyde, which keeps the fabric from shrinking, may also be to blame. Regardless, the number of American Airlines employees complaining about their uniforms continues to grow.

In fact, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants tells 3 On Your Side that nearly 10 percent of the 26,000 American Airline flight attendants have "had reactions that are suspected to be caused by the uniforms."

"By removing the offending agent or trigger, you can eliminate the problem and the symptoms and hopefully go away," Thompson said.

American Airlines tells 3 On Your Side that tests of the garments were done prior to being rolled out and in a document obtained by 3 On Your Side to employees, the airline acknowledges that six different chemicals are found in the garments but at safe levels. Dr. Thompson and American Airlines suggest employees should probably wash their uniforms several times to help avoid any health-related problems.

"Washing the garments prior to use may help to diminish some of the symptoms but it can be a real struggle for some individuals," Thompson said.

Employees are demanding the uniforms be recalled but that hasn't happened. American Airlines says they are collaborating with the union to establish a fourth round of testing.

3 On Your Side was sent statements from American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, they can be read below:

From American Airlines:

In September, we rolled out new uniforms for more than 70,000 employees around the world. Our team members have expressed excitement that we are all one team. The safety of our team members is our number one priority, and that extends to ensuring that all team members feel safe and comfortable in their uniforms.

We take the concerns of our team members very seriously and in addition to establishing a call center to address individual concerns, we have also provided several alternatives including including non-wool uniform pieces, authorization to purchase replacement garments at retail stores, or in some cases wearing old uniforms. We continue to encourage anyone who believes they are having a reaction to contact us so we can address each concern individually.

The new uniforms are the result of a collaborative effort including extensive testing both prior to and after launch. Our uniforms meet OEKO-TEX® 100 certification, and testing confirmed the uniforms meet or exceed industry safety standards.  As with all clothing, testing showed low levels of chemicals in the new American Airlines garments. This is normal, and all chemicals found by our testing were at low levels of concentration and are consistent with amounts typically present in clothing. We are collaborating with APFA to establish a fourth round of testing.

From APFA:

I am the National Secretary for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Union representing the almost 26,000 American Airlines Flight Attendants. I have been tasked with leading APFA’s efforts in the ongoing uniform issues.

To date, we have received 2,946 reports from 2,659 individual Flight Attendants who have had reactions that are suspected to be caused by the uniforms.

APFA has asked for a recall of the uniforms. APFA was able to ensure the Flight Attendants have the ability to return to wearing their old uniforms or to be reimbursed for “like items” from retail stores.

APFA is working with American Airlines to set up joint testing and we are hopeful we will be able to move forward on this soon.

Sorry, I cannot help you with a local PHX Flight Attendant for an on-camera interview.

Copyright 2017 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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