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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