Are you aware that many countries require incoming flights to be sprayed with pesticides? The technical term for this process is disinsection. The purpose is to prevent the spread of insects that could carry diseases. For example, malaria-carrying mosquitoes or Triatominae that cause Chagas. The problem is that pesticides can also be extremely harmful to your health. What’s more is that some airlines are performing disinsection on domestic flights too, exposing a lot of innocent passengers to highly toxic chemicals.
During the disinsection process, the entire cabin is sprayed with pesticides. Depending on the airline’s chosen procedure, this may be done before or after you have boarded, or even during flight. Even when disinsection is performed before you board, there is still potential for toxic exposure. For starters, the flight crew responsible for spraying is still exposed. Passengers are also exposed when they make contact with the treated air and surfaces. The chemicals are then absorbed into your skin and clothing. There is also the likelihood of in-flight foods and drinks being exposed before they are consumed.
The most common pesticides being used are synthetic pyrethroids. These have been linked to autoimmune diseases, lupus, memory loss, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer. Keep in mind that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has never approved these pesticides for this specific application—inside a passenger cabin.
And this isn’t the only source of toxic fumes when you are aboard an aircraft. Airplanes are powered by large engines which exhaust fumes of their own. Plus, the pressurized cabin is constantly circulated with air that is filtered but often treated with signature fragrance to cover up the dirty engine smell.
It is important to protect yourself. We already know that repeat exposure to pesticides and/or signature fragrance may lead to serious illness. Many passengers and airline employees have reported symptoms during and immediately after flying. These include headache, dizziness, nausea, respiratory distress, skin irritation and even vision problems. Too often these symptoms are blamed on a common virus or motion sickness when toxic pesticide exposure is the real culprit.
Energy Matters, LLC. hopes that, in time, airlines will apply more sustainable and health-conscious strategies to insect control and disease prevention. In the meantime, protect yourself by limiting air travel to only essential flights. When you absolutely must fly, seek out carriers who use air curtains instead of pesticides. Air curtains are fast-moving currents of air directed outward to prevent insects from entering. You may also try boosting your immune response by ensuring you get proper nutrition and rest before and after your flight. And always be sure to cleanse your body and your clothing immediately after arriving at your destination. Use this information to stay healthy next time you travel.
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What To Remember:Many international and domestic airlines are spraying planes and passengers with pesticides.The pesticides are meant to eliminate disease-carrying insects, but they can harm humans too.Frequent fliers report severe symptoms and mysterious illness.Protect yourself by reducing exposure as much as possible.
- Anderson, Judith, et al. (January, 2018). Air Safety, Health and Security Department: Pesticides. Retrieved from ASHSD.AFACWA.org.
- Office of Aviation Enforcement. (September, 2018). Aircraft Disinsection Requirements. Retrieved from Transportation.gov.
- Novak, Sara. (October, 2018). Frequent Flyers Beware: Does Your Airline Spray Pesticides While You're Onboard? Retrieved from OrganicAuthority.com.
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