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Flight Attendants Forward Petition to DoT Supporting Non-Toxic Pest Prevention on Aircraft

Date: June 28, 2004

Onboard Pesticides Hazard to Passengers and Crew

WASHINGTON —The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, has filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Transportation signed by more than 1,000 airline passengers and crewmembers from throughout the nation and the world supporting the agency's efforts to seek alternatives to onboard pesticide spraying.

"Informed travelers are often shocked to learn that their overseas travel may be exposing them to toxic substances, which can cause serious health problems," said AFA President Pat Friend. "Most passengers would certainly choose to fly with an airline that does not spray with pesticides over one that does."

Approximately 50 countries require pesticide spraying on all or selected flights, apparently to prevent the importation of insects that carry tropical disease or affect plant and animal health. Yet pesticide application in aircraft cabins and cockpits can present a serious health hazard for both passengers and crewmembers, many of who must work in the sprayed environment regularly and repeatedly. Reported symptoms include acute respiratory and sinus problems, rashes, hives, headaches and anaphylactic shock, as well as chronic immune, respiratory and neurological problems. Damp mattresses and carpets in crew bunkrooms pose additional problems for cabin and cockpit crews. There are no requirements to inform either crewmembers or passengers of the potential hazards prior to ticket purchase or flight.

AFA advocates the use of a non-chemical means of prevention, such as the air curtain technology being tested at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Florida under the direction of the Department of Transportation. In early 2004, American Airlines expressed a willingness to assist DOT in its efforts to test air curtain technology, and hosted an in-aircraft demonstration of the air curtain. "We applaud the leadership shown by the Department of Transportation and American to seek alternative ways of ensuring a bug-free aircraft, which in turn will result in a healthier and safer cabin," said Friend.

In early March, AFA launched an online petition for passengers and crewmembers to voice both their opposition to pesticide exposure and support for a non-chemical mechanical means of compliance with other countries' quarantine rules.

More than 46,000 flight attendants join together to form AFA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.

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