read about a published case study of anaphylactic reaction to pesticides
applied on aircraft, published in Nov. 2010.
application in the occupied or soon-to-be occupied aircraft cabin and cockpit
can be a serious health hazard for crewmembers and passengers. Pesticide/solvent
exposure can be significant, and some crewmembers must work in the sprayed
environment regularly and repeatedly. Almost 50 countries require pesticide
spraying on all or selected flights, apparently to prevent the importation of
insects that either carry tropical disease or damage plant/animal health. The
cabin may also be pre-treated in a country that does not require pesticide
spraying. There are no requirements to inform either crewmembers or passengers
prior to ticket purchase or flight. The sprays contain an active ingredient
(typically 2% permethrin or d-phenothrin), solvents, and in some cases,
propellants. Reported symptoms include acute respiratory and sinus problems,
rash/hives, headache, and anaphylactic shock, as well as chronic immune,
respiratory, and neurological problems. Damp mattresses and carpet in the crew
bunk rooms have posed particular problems for cabin and cockpit crew. AFA
advocates the use of non-chemical means of disinsection such as the air curtain
technology being tested at a US Department of Agriculture lab in Florida, under the
direction of the Department of Transportation. Delta Airlines is also involved
in this project.
AFA activity and hot topics
Apr 2013. Information on pesticide spraying practices on flights operated by
Apr 2012. DOT acknowledges passage of
law mandating passengers’ right-to-know about pesticides on their planes, but
no action yet: The US Department of Transportation acknowledged the Feb.
2012 legislation that requires airlines to inform passengers of onboard pesticide
spraying. The DOT notice commits the agency to address the requirements in a “future
rulemaking.” As of Nov, 2013 the DOT has still not issued a rule to satisfy the
passenger right-to-know legislation, approved by Congress.
Feb 2012. US airlines required to inform
passengers of onboard insecticide applications, required to meet foreign quarantine
rules (click on link and search for word “insecticides”): On Feb. 14,
2012, Congress passed legislation to ensure airline passengers are notified of exposure
to insecticides that US airlines spray to comply with quarantine regulations of
approx. 50 countries listed on this
DOT website. (Click on link in title to access Public Law 112-95, section 415(c), § 42303. Use of insecticides in passenger aircraft.) The law covers pesticide spraying in countries that require
inflight spraying on all/selected inbound flights, and countries that accept
residual spraying but may spray inflight if residual spray expired. It should
also notify passengers of onbobard insecticide
spraying at any additional airports in countries that may not require spraying
but are contracted with US airlines to spray the cabin, such that passengers
could board a freshly-soaked aircraft prior to boarding. At present (Nov. 2013),
it is not clear if the DOT website information is current, airlines are not
notifying passengers of insecticide spraying, and DOT has not issued a rule.
Research paper: Exposure
of flight attendants to pyrethroid insecticides on
commercial flights: urinary metabolite levels and implications
Aug 2010. Information on
which flights are sprayed with pesticides (partial list): Concerned
about exposure to pesticides on a flight? Check this list and contact your
airline. If you have additional or alternate information compared to what is on
this partial list of sprayed flights, please email
Aug 2008. Pyrethroids more toxic than previously thought: Center
for Public Integrity publishes report titled “Perils of the New Pesticides”
June 2008. Proposed
“passenger right to know” bill: This bill would require airlines to
notify passengers of pesticide spraying rules prior to ticket purchase. It was
referred to the House Subcommittee on Aviation on June 25, 2008. The same language was
also proposed as part of the failed FAA Reauthorization process in 2008. The
Department of Transportation proposed a similar measure in the form of a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NPRM) in 1995. During the next three years, airline opposition was
strong to the proposed rule. For example, the contents of Docket 50031 reveal
that American Airlines told the DOT that “requiring airlines and travel
agencies to warn customers of potential health hazards is an unfair burden and
could harm the public” and the ATA said that “if the NPRM is made final, the US
Government will have become a willing and active participant in fostering
continued aircraft disinsection.” The DOT withdrew its
proposed rule in 1998, stating that it was “no longer justified” because a
number of countries had dropped their spraying rules. Still, 47 countries
require spraying on incoming flights. Transport Canada
does recommend that airlines notify passengers of pesticide spraying rules
prior to ticket purchase.
Sept 2007. US asks WHO to
consider non-chemical disinsection: At the 36th Session of
the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly, the US
Government asked the ICAO Council to urge the World Health Organization to hold
a consultation into non-chemical disinsection methods, with the view to the WHO
accepting non-chemical methods as an alternative to the currently-approved
chemical methods of disinsection. The resolution was accepted and the WHO
intends to convene its consultation in late 2008. A summary of WHO and ICAO
activity on aircraft disinsection is provided here.
reassessment of the neurotoxicity of pyrethroid
Feb 2005. Practical
advice for crewmembers: Exposed to pesticides on a flight? Read this
and take it to your doctor.
Oct 2004. International
body shows support for non-chemical alternatives to pesticides on planes:
ICAO Assembly adopts a resolution that encourages the exploration of
non-chemical means of aircraft disinsection and requests that the ICAO Council
assist the WHO in this effort.
Oct 23, 2003. Occupational
Illness Among Flight Attendants Due To Aircraft Disinsection: Report
published by California Department of Health Services Occupational Health
Branch. Newsletter article here.
Oct 2, 2003. Letter
from AFA President to United Airlines CEO: Request for United to
volunteer to participate in DOT-led testing for non-chemical alternative to
spraying pesticides on planes.
chemicals are in the sprays? Association of Flight
disinsection timeline: Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO;
last updated December 2003.
ICAO and the WHO say the sprays are safe. Let your voice be heard…: Association
of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO.
Sept. 2002. To spray or not to spray? Introducing a
new approach to aircraft disinsection: Article
proposing non-chemical alternatives to spraying pesticides on aircraft,
published in Cabin Safety Update, Vol. 8, Issue 9, 2002.
March 7, 2002. Ladies
and gentlemen, you are about to be sprayed: Aircraft disinsection - what has
been, what is, and where to go from here: Paper presented by
Judith Murawski, AFA at the 19th Annual SCSI International Aircraft Cabin
Excerpts from "The Airliner Cabin Environment and the Health of Passengers and
Crew": Report by the Committee on Air Quality in Passenger Cabins
of Commercial Aircraft, National Research Council; See p.204.
Jan 8, 2002. Letter
from AFA President to United Airlines' CEO: Noted that formal request
for United to change the description of the sprays as "safe" in the
flight attendants' manual was pointedly ignored.
Nov 2, 2001. Letter
from AFA President to United Airlines' CEO: Formal notification that it
is unacceptable for United to require flight attendants to tell passengers that
the pesticide sprays are "safe" when all evidence is to the contrary.
Requested change to related text in flight attendant announcement book.
Aug 7, 2000. Letter
from AFA President to United Airlines' CEO: Description of hazard and
request for United to make specific changes to pesticide spraying practices.
References to news articles
Jul 24, 2003. Boston Globe (Copyright IHT): "Air passengers bugged about
Mar 17, 2003. Pesticide Action Network Update
passengers are sprayed for bugs"
Sept 10, 2001. USAToday:
"Fliers fume over planes treated with pesticides Some
airline passengers, employees say required spraying in cabins can cause health
Aug 1, 2001. Associated Press:
"Flight attendant sues United"
2001. New Zealand Weekend Herald: "Cabin crew call up war hero in
May 16, 2001. New Zealand Herald:
"Crews in revolt over plane spraying"
Jan 20, 1999. Pesticide Action Network North
America: "New report highlights risk of pesticides used on aircraft"
.Series of articles by investigative/environmental reporters Linda & Bill Bonvie
Mar 24, 2003. Study of insecticide neurotoxicity yields clues to onset of
Parkinson's Disease: Virginia Tech press
2001. You've Been Sprayed:
What Can You Do? Journal of Pesticide Reform, National Coalition for
Alternatives to Pesticides, Vol. 21(3), Fall 2001.
Feb 2001. ICAO
Aircraft Disinsection Practices Survey: International Civil Aviation
Organization Facilitation Panel
2000. Description of confounding factors, individual differences, and
interactions related to pesticide exposure: Chapter 8 in: A Review
of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains To Gulf War Illness, Volume 8:
May 14, 1996. Pesticide
Registration Notice 96-3: US Environmental Protection Agency.
1996. Australian quarantine: A shared responsibility: Agriculture Fisheries, and Forestry –
Australia, Australia Quarantine & Inspection Service. Nairn, ME; Allen, PG; Inglis, AR; and Tanner, C., Commonwealth of Australia; See
1985. WHO Recommendations On the Disinsecting
of Aircraft: WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record, 60(7): 45-47.
- National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
Californians For Pesticide Reform
for Alternatives to Pesticides
Pesticide Action Network North America