Air Psssengers Exposed to Pesticides

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by elliespad, Mar 8, 2006.

  1. elliespad

    elliespad Member




    By Diana Fairechild


    "Former flight attendant Diana Fairechild flew 10 million miles before health problems grounded her, a direct result, she says, of exposure to pesticides and other chemicals on commercial aircraft. Now, seven years later, Fairechild's campaign to alert travelers about the dangers of spraying bug killers on airplanes is being waged in cyberspace. From her home Hawaii, Fairechild produces, a well-researched, engagingly personal series of columns on the Internet's World Wide Web." -Laura Bly, Los Angeles Times lists the countries that poison us. Let us hear from you to update Flyana's List.

    Passengers have the human right NOT to be poisoned by airlines. More info: Fairechild's Passenger Bill of Rights

    In 1992, Fairechild blew the whistle on the airlines for routinely spraying passengers with pesticides as if they were insects. Airline employee turned activist, Diana had been medically grounded in December 1987 with toxic chemical poisoning, after enduring decades of getting sprayed with pesticides in aircraft cabins.

    Fairechild's startling revelations were covered extensively by national and international media. As she was too ill to travel, journalists and television production crews traveled to Hawaii for interviews. Reuters News Service, Forbes, Dateline, and Hardcopy, among others, picked up the story. As the news traveled around the world, it angered passengers and unsettled Washington bureaucrats.

    Fairechild's personal experience being sprayed by pesticides hundreds of times had been devasting.

    As an international flight attendant, pesticide was sprayed right on Diana's skin. She began to realize something was very wrong when her eyes swelled up the size of golf balls on flights when pesticide was sprayed.

    Looking for answers, she went to a doctor and found that the pesticide used on airplanes was toxic. The doctor tested her in a double blind study and found she was having an allergic reaction to that pesticide. Diana tried avoiding the flights with pesticides, but it was impossible. With no other alternative, she was forced to give up flying.

    Diana Fairechild took her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and, although she never recouped any money, she has not given up the fight for others.

    Meanwhile, the fallout from the pesticide toxicity was touching every corner of her world. Diana is now sensitive to the smells in the personal chemicals that many people wear, e.g. hair gel or even deodorant. She explains, "Blind people are more sensitive to touch than we are. They can read Braille, whereas, to most of us, the bumps on a piece of paper are not decipherable. In the same way, I've found that my reaction to toxins is an example of how I am a super sensitive -- a blessing, once I recognized this as a gift."

    "Diana Fairechild's book Jet Smart dropped a bomb in Washington and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Dept of Transportation changed policy." -Ed Randegger, Environ

    "Diana Fairechild describes her reactions to the chemicals and how it has caused massive allergic reactions to a broad spectrum of chemicals. She now spends her time writing books about air travel and fighting to ban the spraying of pesticides on aircraft." -Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC

    "Diana Fairechild, a highly respected consumer advocate for the flying public, says there is 'no quick fix for all the symptoms of jetlag because of all the different causes -- shifts in time, alterations in magnetic fields, modifications in climate, and diversitites in cultures. Flying in commercial jets, we're deprived of air and humidity while exposed to recycled germs and chemicals, radiation, pesticides, and noise.'" -Ambassadair Travel Club

    "Diana Fairechild, a former flight attendant who writes about and does consulting on the health risks of flying, says some frequent travelers often fail to connect the dots between their travels and chronic ailments." -Alina Tugend, The New York Times

    "Take the advice of Diana Fairechild." -Smart Money

    "Diana Fairechild is an aviation health and safety analyst." -Andrea Arceneau, CNN-TV

    "Fairechild says on certain international flights, 'attendants are required to empty half a dozen cans of pesticide into the passengers' air supply en route.'" -Karin Winegar, Conde Nast Traveler

    "The thing I enjoy only slightly less than a tooth extraction is flying... Fairechild, still perky after what amounts to 300 circumnavigations of the globe, said that the mostly non-lethal dangers of air travel amount to one of the great unexplored environmental health issues of the day...Considering how many of us this affects, this lone voice is well worth hearing." -John Bogert, Copley Newspapers

    "Diana Fairechild, a highly respected consumer advocate for the flying public, says there is 'no quick fix for all the symptoms of jetlag because of all the different causes -- shifts in time, alterations in magnetic fields, modifications in climate, and diversitites in cultures. Flying in commercial jets, we're deprived of air and humidity while exposed to recycled germs and chemicals, radiation, pesticides, and noise.'" -Ambassadair Travel Club

    "Fairechild speaks from the heart."

    "My theory about long-distance air flight is like the one people sometimes cite about childbirth: one is willing to go back and do it again only because one forgets how painful the experience is. As it happens, Diana Fairechild also likens air flight to childbirth, but in her simile the passenger is like the baby and the jet the womb which, unlike mom's, fails to adequately sustain the well-being of its inhabitants." -Jill Engledow, The Maui News

    "Fear of flying? Want to know how clean the air is inside the plane? For all your questions about air travel, there's a website with the answer. can help you with everything from jetlag to lost luggage! The site's creator calls herself a passenger advocate, and she's written several books on the subject as well. The goal of the site is to calm public fears about flying and make the experience more enjoyable." -NBC4-TV

    "Fairechild has a bag of carry-on health tricks larger than fits in the overhead compartment, all included in her book, Jet Smarter." -American Bar Association Journal


    Since the 1930s, many nations around the world have required the "disinsection" of inbound, international aircraft. "Disinsection" is jargon, of course. It means the spraying of airplanes with bug killers.

    Prepare to be shocked. Sometimes disinsections are done with the passengers on board, even though the warning label on the pesticide says "hazardous to humans" and "avoid breathing vapors."

    The insecticide used on commercial jets is a product sold for home use under the label Black Knight Roach Killer.

    In May 1994, this pyrethrin pesticide lost its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for use in "occupied aircraft." Unfortunately, passengers are still getting sprayed day after day under a loophole which permits remaining stocks to be used up.

    There are four ways disinsection is accomplished.

    Disinsection Type #1

    After landing, but before disembarking, the local authorities come on board and spray pesticide into the air.

    Each "applicator," while walking up the aisle, aims two cans of pesticide simultaneously 180 degrees in opposite directions, to the right and to the left, aiming the poison spray towards the narrow space between the overhead bins and the passengers' heads.

    All the while, passengers are required to keep seatbelts fastened and the air-conditioning is off.

    The pesticide's label states "avoid contact with skin and eyes" and "wash contaminated clothing separately from other laundry," yet, you can clearly see its mist land on all the passengers and crew on board and no warning whatsoever is offered to passengers and crew.

    Disinsection Type #2

    Prior to landing, approximately 30 minutes before touchdown, flight attendants disinsect in the same manner as the local authorities (above).

    Disinsection Type #3

    After takeoff, flight attendants walk down the aisles spraying pesticide behind them as in Type 2 Disinsection (above).

    Disinsection Type #4

    The plane is saturated with a "residual" pesticide applied every six to eight weeks. The term "residual" suggests that the toxic effects will linger through the departures and arrivals of passengers for two months.

    Because of its residual presence, passengers breathe the stuff for the entire duration of their flight. The pesticide used on these aircraft, permethrin, is a suspected carcinogen and a liver and lung "enfeebler." More and more, airplanes are using this type of disinsection so passengers don't know and don't complain.

    Airplanes treated with residual spray are, sad to say, not restricted to these destinations -- they can show up on any route. A United flight attendant told me she worked such a jet on the Los Angeles/ Hong Kong nonstop. The certificate of residual spray with its date of application can be found on board in first class, inside the forward left-hand coat closet.


    In March 1995, the Department of Transportation invited public comment as to whether US airlines should be required to provide notice to passengers if their flight would include a pesticide shower. Here is my comment:

    March 17, 1995

    Docket Clerk, Docket No. 50031
    US Department of Transportation
    400 7th Street SW, Room 4107
    Washington, DC 20590

    I am a former international flight attendant. During the 21 years I worked for the airlines, I was repeatedly exposed to pesticide in my workplace. I was required to inhale it, and to have it on my skin, in my eyes, and on my clothing.

    Because of these exposures, I acquired multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). MCS is the breakdown of the body's ability to detoxify everyday chemicals. This little-understood condition is triggered by significant exposure to toxic chemicals, either a single crippling dose or repeated small doses.

    Since 1987, when I was medically grounded, every day has been a cautious adjustment to, or avoidance of, environmental dangers completely unknown to most people. I am allergic to perfume, hair spray, glue, propane gas, car exhaust, interiors of relatively new cars, the finish on new clothes and sheets, dry-cleaned clothes, fabric softener, newsprint, mold, and much more.

    I get fevers, headaches, motor coordination and memory problems, infected eyes, rashes, and a couple dozen more symptoms too personal to relate here. My treating physician and other medical experts have testified that I acquired MCS as a result of pesticides sprayed on me in my workplace.

    Here are my views on The Proposed Rule. The notice should be required:

    --For all flights worldwide on all tickets written in the USA or by US agents abroad.

    --For all routes where there is either residual or on board pesticide sprayings.

    --To be printed in airline schedules and in advertisements.

    --To be related verbally upon ticket inquiry and in writing upon ticket sale.

    In addition, I suggest that:

    --The name of the insecticide and its potential "acute symptoms" from the EPA manual Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings should be related verbally upon ticket inquiry, and in writing upon ticket sale and in advertisements.

    --Whenever the pesticide spray is to be encountered at a transit stop, an alternate flight path should be offered to the passenger.

    Thank you,

    Diana Fairechild
    Author, Jet Smart

    "Ms. Fairechild obviously has no fear of offending those who fly for a living. An activist in the movement to clean up the skies, she deals decisively with such thorny (and in many cases previously undisclosed) in-flight environmental issues as pesticide spraying (which she calls 'killer mists'), toxic chemicals, secondhand smoke, radiation, ozone, bad air, noise, g-forces and electromagnetic pulses. Ms. Fairechild has gathered a mountain of information during her 21 years in the skies. In this book, she has attempted to address virtually every element of the air passenger's experience and has given the reader her personal spin on each." -National Law Journal

    "Fairechild explains how recycled air on planes contributes to air rage and in spreading infectious diseases." -Art Bell, Coast to Coast AM

    "Diana Fairechild, a former flight attendant who writes about and does consulting on the health risks of flying, says some frequent travelers often fail to connect the dots between their travels and chronic ailments." -Alina Tugend, The New York Times

    "Airlines should be 'responsible for informing passengers of the physical impact of flight,' says Diana Fairechild." -Diane Cole, U.S. News & World Report


    For Types 1 and 2 Disensections:

    --When you make your reservation, ask your airline for an "exemption to disinsection." Your airline will most probably require a note from your doctor saying you are allergic to pesticide, asthmatic, or pregnant. (No other circumstances seem to deliver exemptions.)

    --Remember to remind your airline of your exception when you reconfirm your reservation (about 48 hours before departure) and when you check in at the airport.

    --When planning your trip, the only way to find out right now, for sure, if your jet will be sprayed and with which type of spray job (1, 2, 3, or 4), is to query someone who has recently flown that route on that airline. (One way to accomplish this would be to go to the airport and ask passengers or attendants coming off the return trip.)

    --If you do not have a note of exemption, upon boarding ask the purser if there is going to be pesticide sprayed on that flight and when it will take place so you can prepare.

    --During the disinsection, cover yourself with an airline blanket to reduce somewhat the amount of pesticide that you will absorb through your skin into your body, as well as the amount you will retain in your clothes and hair where off-gassing will continue to release toxins into your lungs. (Pesticides have even been reported in clothing that had been laundered ten times!)


    When you fly to a country that sprays pesticide?

    If you encounter pesticide spray on your flights:

    --Write to the country which requires disinsection and ask them to stop this practice.

    --Email copies of your letters to post on this page so that we can continue to update this list of offenders/polluters/abusers.

    --Become proactive.


    "I became ill after working a Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand flight. My skin was covered with a rash and I had to turn out the lights in my hotel room as my eyes were bright red and painful. On the return flight: my contact lenses clouded over, I had a raging headache and chest pain, and I lost my voice."-Anonymous International Flight Attendant

    "You asked for information on flights that require the passengers to be sprayed with insecticide. I have been working a 28-day on / 28-day off rotation in the Middle east (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) and living in Florida for the past eleven years. I average 6 1/2 round trips a year. For every trip I have flown, Emirates Airlines or British Airways from Dubai to London, I have been forced to endure the disinsection. The explanation is that British authorities require it. What makes it all the more puzzling is the fact there are few insects in Dubai, since it's a desert."-Bill Andrews

    "I just finished reading your very insightful article on the spraying of toxic pesticides on planes. I thought I would let you know that Canada also sprays pesticides on some of its flights. This has happened to me a number of times, returning from Cuba and Trinidad on Air Canada, Canadian Airlines and BWIA."-Chris McNicolls

    "I've flown Kenya Airways from Nairobi to London four times since 1991. Each flight, we were sprayed with pesticide while the plane was still on the ground in Nairobi after the doors had been closed, so obviously no one was able to avoid it. Flight attendants walked through with aerosol cans. No announcement was made. I think the worst thing is that there were babies on board. I assume that it is worse for the little ones."-Evelyn Staus

    "THANK YOU! I just ran across your page on the net and the timing could not have been better. I was planning a trip to Nicaragua on the 17th of this month. Not now! I have changed my plans and am going to Belize instead. Thanks again."-Glenn M. Dann

    "Thank you for your work against spraying on airplanes. How could the airlines authorize spraying poison on PEOPLE??? It's just nuts. I have worked in the past for a local organization called "GROW" (Grass Roots the Organic Way), which I joined after my cat got poisoned by the stuff the lawn service poured onto the grounds of our condo complex. The cat's still alive (after a week of seizures!), but I've learned an awful lot in the process. For example, I learned that there is a pesticide in some "deodorant" soaps! I've learned that for almost every toxic chemical we use, there are environmentally friendly and non-toxic ways of dealing with the problem."-Rochelle Rabin, Esq.

    "What a great idea! Finally, a good use for pesticides. The world is saved from over-population." -Alice Ellison


    Where passengers get sprayed
    Getting an exemption
    Fairechild's Passenger Bill of Rights




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