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Should Disinsection Of Aircraft Be Allowed?

Updated on March 23, 2011

Disinsection refers to the practice of spraying aircraft with insecticides. This occurs on both domestic and international flights. It is carried out for the purpose of preventing the dissemination of insects as well as disease. This in an international practice, though regulations vary from country to country, often depending on a flight's origin..

Planes may be sprayed at one or more times. Spraying may take just place just before the passangers have begun to disembark. Flight Attendants merely spay single-shot aerosol doses of insecticide throughout the cabin. Spraying may take place as planes begin to make preparations for landing, or finally, the plane may be sprayed in all areas, except for the food preparation area, when the plane is empty.

The most common chemicals used for disinsection are pyrethroids, synthetic nerve poisons such as those used to eradicate head lice. Various problems, related to disinsection, have been reported by both passengers and crew members. Such problems include sinus problems, swollen and itchy eyes, difficulty breathing, rashes, headaches and in more serious cases, nervous-system and immune system damage. In spite of these reported problems, the WHO considers both the type of insecticides used, and the methods of use, to be safe.

The WHO does however caution that these chemicals can be toxic and that there should be on-going research into substances that have fewer adverse effects. Not everyone agrees that the present levels or methods of disinsection are safe. Even some members of the US Congress have spoken out against current practices.

Control of disease is vital for world health and therefore, presently at least, the benefits of disinsection are considered to outweigh the potential risks. Is this a reality, and also, should airline passengers be informed if this procedure is to take place on their flight?

If you have health concerns and want to know if a planned flight is to be sprayed with insecticide, at any stage, contact your airline. As even some airline employees are unaware of disinsection, insist on accurate information from a qualified spokesperson.


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    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Central Texas

      That is alarming to know that small babies were sprayed - I would be considering another airline - thank you for your firsthand account - B.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is done when landing in Sydney, Australia. Even small babies are sprayed! I am debating whether to take my baby because their body mass is so much less, the absorption/concentration ratio would be so much higher than an adult's.

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Central Texas

      It is an interesting process - I thought it was worth knowing about - thank you for your comment LadyLyell - B.

    • LadyLyell profile image


      6 years ago from George, South Africa

      I have always wondered what is accomplished by spraying some planes and not others.

      A good topic here!

    • billips profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Central Texas

      Thank you for taking the time to read and also to comment - I think our best weapon is knowledge, and of course using it wisely - B

    • RedElf profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      I have luckily not experienced this procedure (yet). I agree that information should be available so passengers can decide whether to take that flight. Thanks for the timely info.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks so much! Having just done some extended flying I wish I had known about this beforehand--I think.

      The issue has to be concerning either way we look at it. However, knowing about the diseases that tiny bugs carry, taking a look at the history of plagues, and realizing how our global community interacts daily makes one pause at demanding a ban on efforts to control the spread of insects.

      I vote for definitely notifying passengers of the method and its risks. Not doing so is criminal. We may have to fight the bugs, but not to tell passengers that they are at risk of being exposed to poisons so they can choose not to fly based on that risk is wrong. Parents of children and infants, and those with health issues should particularly be notified.


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