Airline pays passenger €50,000 because of pesticide on board

Life-threatening asthma attack in airplane triggered by Permethrin

An Irish businessman suffered from a severe allergic reaction during an Air France flight because the airline sprayed the pesticide permethrin on board. James Lapham sued Air France and received €50,000 compensation for damages for the first time in history as was stated in the Irish Independent newspaper. Mr. Lapham, an asthmatic, barely survived the incident and is still receiving medical treatment after 8 months.

Pesticides are often part of everyday life on board

The spraying of pesticides on planes is not unusual. For hygiene reasons, and because it is feared that pests could be transported, many countries require the spraying of pesticides. Normally, the passengers are not informed or warned. The estimated number of passengers who suffered health problems during a flight due to pesticide on board is most likely high. Airlines worldwide now fear that this case could constitute a precedent, and that other passengers suffering from ailments may call upon this case.

A German lawyer led a lawsuit against Air France in 2008. He had also suffered health problems caused by the spraying of pesticides on board. The airline denied him the information as to what pesticide had been used. The Frankfurt regional court’s verdict in December 2008 gave the attorney only half right.

An even bigger worry for the airlines than the single passenger cases, is complaints from flight staff who have become ill due to pesticides and may take advantage of the current case.

Asthma attacks caused by pesticides

The Independent writes that James Lapham was on a flight from Rabat to Dublin when the incident occurred. He had only been on board for 10 minutes when he experienced breathing difficulties. The Irish Independent reports that the flight attendants had sprayed permethrin, a neurotoxic pesticide, in the cabin. Permethrin is a Pyrethroide, and is a pesticide which is known for, among other things, triggering allergic and non-allergic asthma. Permethrin is prohibited on flights in the U.S. because the pesticide has been classified by the EPA as carcinogenic since 1997.

Emergency landing due to asthmatic’s reaction to pesticide

The Irish businessman reacted so violently to the permethrin that the flight attendants had to give him oxygen. This intervention was not enough and Mr. Lapham’s asthmatic condition worsened and the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Morocco. The businessman was brought by ambulance to a hospital, where he was stabilized with cortisone. The Independent stated that Mr. Lapham might indeed work again, but is still in need of medical treatment.

Sick due to pesticides in airplane – not an isolated case

The Irish businessman James Lapham is not an isolated case. Particularly flight staffs on long-haul flights in hot regions have been complaining for years about the use of pesticides and the damaging health effects caused by the toxic chemicals. Court cases in different countries are pending and flight attendants have organized internationally for years.

James Lapham pled at the Irish High Court at the Montreal Convention. Passengers cannot receive more than € 100,000 damages under this convention, the Irishman won half, €50.000. Whether more cases will be recognized can not be predicted, because airlines still claim that permethrin had been recommended by the WHO, although scientific studies on the health damaging effects of neurotoxic pesticide are increasing.

Author: Silvia K. Müller, CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network, 21. August 2011

Literature: Independent, Airline pays out €50,000 in pest-killer spray case, August 09, 2011

Support for sufferers of Aerotoxic Syndrome: AEROTOXIC ASSOCIATION

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3 Responses to “Airline pays passenger €50,000 because of pesticide on board”

  1. Lawrence A. Plumlee, M.D 23. August 2011 um 23:05

    I would like to see an objective risk-benefit study that evaluated the damage prevented by the use of insecticides on aircraft versus the damage caused by them in terms of hours of work lost. Couldn’t insect traps keep levels of insects low enough to where their risk is negligible? These national laws requiring insect spraying before aircraft land in a country were reduced after Hillary Clinton travelled to South Africa in the 1990′s and was sprayed en route. Many of the laws were enacted tit for tat because countries retaliated with such laws. The effectiveness of such spraying in preventing insect-bourne illness from entering countries has not been proven. Airlines do not like these matters to be discussed in the mass media, which discourages progress toward rational laws.

  2. Christine Standing 24. August 2011 um 10:21

    I would prefer not to be made ill in the first place!

    1. Airlines are not proactively interested in passengers’ health despite their claims and assertions: action speaks louder than words. They poison people.
    2. Airlines deny that that has been a problem when organophosphates enter the cabin from ‘bleed air’. A friend and over fifty other passengers complained that they had been made ill on an aircraft. The airline wrote an identical letter to them all : “No one else has complained.” LIARS.
    3. Airlines depend on the hope that we the public haven’t got the resources to sue them. Too often they are right on this one.
    4. My young grandchildren have been sprayed on board aircraft. Have airlines no pity?

    I have not travelled by air since I was made seriously ill five years ago. The airlines regulate themselves and that is the real problem.

  3. Silvia 24. August 2011 um 11:23

    One time I was flying from Frankfurt to Hamburg with a German Airline to see a doctor. After a few minutes on board fumes came out of the air condition and my face got numb by the way, severe migraine started dizziness…

    I asked the flight attendant what was going on and she told me: It’s only dry ice we use for the air condition”. Tell me, since when use aircrafts dry ice for air condition?

    Later I collapsed completely. My doctor wrote to the German department of Health and complaint. He had controlled my Acetyl cholinesterase and it was low. This gave us the answer that they might have used Organophosphates. The answer of the German Department of Health was a kind of interesting. They wrote that perhaps I could have pesticide contamination in our private house and we should call a lab to control. No, we never ever used pesticides in our house and it’s a crime that government departments cover up such poisonings.

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