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Am J Ind Med. 2007 May;50(5):345-56.

Pesticide illness among flight attendants due to aircraft disinsection.

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  • 1Public Health Institute, Oakland, California, USA.



Aircraft "disinsection" is the application of pesticides inside an aircraft to kill insects that may be on board. Over a 1-year period, California's tracking system received 17 reports of illness involving flight attendants exposed to pesticides following disinsection.


Interviews, work process observations, and a records review were conducted. Illness reports were evaluated according to the case definition established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


Twelve cases met the definition for work-related pesticide illness. Eleven cases were attributed to the "Residual" method of disinsection, i.e., application of a solution of permethrin (2.2% w/w), solvents (0.8%), and a surfactant (1.4%); the method of disinsection could not be determined for one case.


The aerosol application of a pesticide in the confined space of an aircraft cabin poses a hazard to flight attendants. Nontoxic alternative methods, such as air curtains, should be used to minimize disease vector importation via aircraft cabins. Employers should mitigate flight attendant pesticide exposure in the interim.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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