Jet blowers may stop bugs from boarding
By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
U.S. Transportation officials think they have a better way than
insecticides to shoo away flying pests trying to buzz through the open
doors of parked jetliners.
In a demonstration planned Tuesday at Miami
International Airport, government researchers will place blowers next to
the open door of an American Airlines Boeing 777. They'll create a
curtain of moving air intended to keep insects from getting on the
plane, the Transportation Department says.
The goal is to provide a safer alternative to the
requirement of 13 countries that airliner cabins of inbound flights be
treated with pesticides. The countries impose the requirement to prevent
introduction of pests that could harm people, crops or livestock.
Foreign dignitaries, airline officials and
caterers are expected to attend the Miami demonstration. The
Transportation Department's Arnold Konheim says it's part of an ongoing
effort to persuade foreign governments to forgo chemical treatments,
which have been linked to health problems of passengers and flight crew
India, Grenada, Trinidad-Tobago and several other
nations require that insecticides be sprayed in the cabin before a plane
touches down. Others, including Australia and New Zealand, allow planes
to be treated with long-lasting chemicals while empty on the ground.
Some flight crew and passengers have blamed the
pesticides for symptoms such as headaches, difficulty breathing and
rashes. A 2003 study by California health officials found that 12 flight
attendants who were studied and who flew on treated planes appeared to
suffer pesticide-related illnesses.
"If passengers knew about the air curtain
(alternative), it's something they would strongly support," says Judith
Murawski, an industrial hygienist for the Association of Flight
The blowers were 99% effective against certain
mosquitoes and 100% effective against houseflies, says Robert Vander
Meer, an Agriculture Department researcher.
The findings will also be presented later this
month in Cairo to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a
United Nations body. Claus Curdt-Christiansen, the organization's
medical chief, says he's encouraged but still has doubts. Pests could
enter the plane on clothing and carry-ons, he says.
Researcher Vander Meer says insecticides may not
be 100% effective, either.
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