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Alaska Airlines flight attendants claim new uniforms make them ill

Several hundred Alaska Airlines employees claim there's something in their new uniforms making them sick, and the airline agrees, but is having difficulty tracking down the cause. KING's Chris Daniels reports.

Hundreds of Alaska Airlines flight attendants say their uniform is making them ill.

The Association of Flight Attendants — which represents roughly 2,800 Alaska employees — says the company’s recent uniform makeover has prompted itching, hair loss and other adverse health reactions.

In a letter to the company’s president last month, the union says 280 — or about 1 in 10 flight attendants — developed issues after Alaska made the switch in 2011. It believes a contaminant, possibly Tributyl phosphate, may be embedded in some uniforms and is causing the problem. The union is asking the airline to make a change.

Corey Caldwell, a spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants, told msnbc.com that the union is working "with airline management for a solution that does not diminish the health and safety of our essential crew members."

Flight attendant fashion over the years, from hot pants and go-go boots to more sophisticated and glamorous looks.

One of the flight attendants who filed a complaint told KING5 Thursday night, “I’ve never had a uniform like this. I broke out this week. I broke out on my back first, then on my legs. I don’t know what it is, or whether it’s the uniform. But, I didn’t have it until I flew 6-7 days in a row and then I started breaking out.”  

Last week, Alaska President Brad Tilden said in a response, via letter, an issue exists and the company could look to replace the uniforms. Flight attendants, and the union, acknowledge it will cost money to make a change that will suit everyone.  

Late Thursday, Alaska Airlines vice president of inflight services Andy Schneider released a statement to KING5: "The safety of Alaska Airlines employees is paramount, and we’ve been working closely with our people and the two unions that represent them to resolve this issue. Numerous tests by three different labs have been unable to determine the cause of the physical reactions, which affected a limited number of our uniformed employees. While the vast majority of those affected are no longer having problems, we’ve provided two alternate uniforms to those who are. Alaska will work with the two employee work groups and unions affected to develop standards for sourcing, materials and other manufacturing issues to make sure that any uniform our people wear is safe and comfortable."

Read the original report on NBC-affiliate KING5.

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