January 20, 1999
New Report Highlights Risk of Pesticides Used on Aircraft
Airline passengers and crew can be exposed to hazardous pesticides without
their knowledge, according to a report recently released by the Northwest
Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). "Flyers Beware: Pesticide
Use on International and Domestic Aircraft and Flights" states that
pesticides are commonly used on both cargo planes and passenger aircraft in
the U.S. and in other countries. Some airlines spray voluntarily, while
others spray to comply with U.S. regulations or requirements of other
countries. Pesticides are used in occupied or unoccupied passenger cabins,
galleys, cockpits and cargo holds. NCAP calls for U.S. airlines to
implement non-toxic pest prevention and management practices and for the
U.S. government to put greater pressure on other countries to prohibit or
discourage use of hazardous pesticides on aircraft.
On flights to at least six countries (Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada,
Madagascar, Kiribati, India, and Uruguay), passengers are directly sprayed
with pesticides while still strapped in their seats after landing.
According to one airline attendant, passengers' clothing, skin and hair may
be soaked with the pesticide.
On flights to many other countries, passengers are exposed to pesticides
sprayed prior to boarding -- without their knowledge. This type of spraying
leaves long-lasting insect-killing residues in the passenger cabin and is
required on some or all flights to Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica,
Barbados, Panama, Fiji and Guam.
Passengers on domestic U.S. flights may also be exposed to residues of
insecticides sprayed on planes. In fact, many pesticide products are
registered in the U.S. for use on aircraft, including in passenger cabins,
and these chemicals can be used immediately prior to boarding. Several
insecticide active ingredients commonly used on aircraft, including
permethrin, cypermethrin and piperonyl butoxicide, are classified by U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency as possible human carcinogens. Others are
classified as reproductive hazards or suspected endocrine disrupting
NCAP's report urges passengers to contact airlines, U.S. government
agencies, and international tourism bureaus to protest the practice of
spraying passengers and aircraft cabins with toxic pesticides. The report
also urges flyers to contact U.S. Congressional representatives and
agencies to press for requirements that airlines at least provide advance
notification to passengers if sprays will be used on or before a flight.
The report provides contacts at airlines for information about spraying
policies in general as well as whether a particular flight will be sprayed.
The report summarizes incidents where people have reported illnesses and
even one death due to in-flight spraying. It also describes complaints made
by flight attendants and passengers that such spraying has caused
headaches, nausea, fatigue, seizures and, in extreme cases, memory loss, a
reduction in cognitive skills or a depressed immune system.
The U.S. stopped spraying occupied aircraft in the 1970s, citing health
risks to passengers. U.S. health officials report that there have been no
outbreaks of vector-borne disease since then that can be attributed to
hitchhiking insects arriving on incoming aircraft.
The full report on aircraft spraying is available on NCAP's Web site at
Source/contact: Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP);
PO Box 1393, Eugene, OR 97440; phone (541) 344-5044; fax (541) 344-6923;
email firstname.lastname@example.org; web www.efn.org/~ncap
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, California 94102
Phone (415) 981-1771
Fax (415) 981-1991
web site www.panna.org/panna/
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