The 17 are preparing personal injury claims against several British airlines, and are being backed by their trade union, Unite. The union is calling for a public inquiry into the quality of cabin air, and has opened a legal unit to process claims from its members who have been exposed to a 'fume event', as it is called when gases from engine oil get mixed with the air that circulates in the cabin.
These leaks, which can occur when engine seals are perforated, expose passengers and crew to organophosphates, such as TCP, which can affect the central nervous system and brain.
At an inquest last February into the death of airline pilot Richard Westgate, the coroner urged airlines to take urgent action "to prevent future deaths" after organophosphate compounds were found in Mr Westgate's brain. Mr Westgate died in 2012, aged 43.
A new inquest is to be opened into the death of cabin crew member Matthew Bass, who died suddenly in January, 2014 after he had suffered unexplained health problems. A post mortem discovered high levels of organophosphate toxins in his nervous system.
Airlines maintain that fume events are rare, and when they do occur, release chemicals that are at a lower level even than that in the average home.
(Source: BBC, June 8, 2015)