HeadLice.Org Hot Spots

Posted 3/9/2004

Jet blowers may stop bugs from boarding

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 members.

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 Attendants.

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.

© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


-- send this page to a friend --

The National Pediculosis Association,® Inc.
A Non-Profit Organization
Serving The Public Since 1983.

The National Pediculosis Association is a non-profit, tax exempt
organization that receives no government or agency funding.
Contributions are tax-deductible under the 501c(3) status.

© 1997-2009 The National Pediculosis Association®, Inc. All images © 1997-2009 The National Pediculosis Association®, Inc.