Airlines are intentionally coating passengers and airplanes with insecticides.
Airplanes are routinely coated with insecticides, in some cases while passengers are still onboard. Passengers have raised alarm at the site of flight attendants emptying aerosol cans of insecticides throughout the cabin. The treatments are intended to prevent the spread of diseases such as yellow fever and malaria, or introduction of invasive species that may be harmful to agriculture.
Unbeknownst to flyers, many airlines use “residual” treatments between flights, which are meant to last an extended period of time. After countless disinsection treatments, planes are likely soaked in insecticides. This is especially disconcerting, considering these are closed vessels, and the chemicals are intended to coat passengers, seats, and surfaces.
The various treatments used on airplanes are defined by the World Health Organization as follows:
- treatment of the interior of the aircraft using a quick-acting insecticide spray immediately before take-off, with the passengers on board;
- treatment of the interior of the aircraft on the ground before passengers come on board, using a residual-insecticide aerosol, plus additional in-flight treatment with a quick-acting spray shortly before landing;
- regular application of a residual insecticide to all internal surfaces of the aircraft, except those in food preparation areas.
WHO claims there is “no evidence that the specified insecticide sprays are harmful to human health when used as recommended”. Regardless, prior reports of human exposure to the common aircraft insecticide, d-Phenothrin, presented adverse effects in one-quarter of cases, including nausea, vomiting, throat irritation, headache, dizziness, and skin and eye irritation. Permethrin is another insecticide used in aircrafts, which the U.S. EPA determined was “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” if orally ingested. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to developing symptoms. In more extreme cases, extended exposure to these chemicals has been linked with brain tumors and Parkinson’s disease.
In 2013, Brett Vollus took legal action against the Commonwealth government, which enforces disinsection on aircrafts. After working as a flight attendant for almost thirty years, Vollus, at age 52, was discovered to have a malignant brain tumor and Parkinson’s disease. The neurologist who treated Vollus reported treating other flight attendants. “We all blindly sprayed this insecticide as we landed in Australia after every long-haul flight. Why wasn’t I warned that it could give me this disease?”, said Vollus to the Daily Telegraph.
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has provided a list of countries that require disinsection during inbound flights while passengers are onboard. The list includes Ecuador, India, Panama, Uruguay, among others. The countries that require residual treatments or spraying when passengers are not onboard include Australia, Barbados, Cook Islands, Fiji, Jamaica and New Zealand. U.S. airlines American, Continental, Delta and US Airways also confirm regular or occasional use of insecticides.
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