Thu, Feb 12, 2004
Congress Says Cabin Air Poses Health Risks
The FAA isn't doing
enough to find out whether people are more likely to catch the flu
or other diseases when they fly, a congressional report said
Tuesday. The report by the General Accounting Office recommended
more research into the health effects of the dry, recirculated air
inside commercial airplanes. Many suspect that airplane air causes
upper respiratory illnesses.
"It would be hard to find an airline passenger who has never
come down with a cold or a sore throat and runny nose after
flying," Rep. Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who requested the
report, said in a statement.
In 2001, a scientific panel recommended that the FAA collect
more data about cabin air. The FAA agreed to lead a research
program to determine the accuracy of perceptions that air
circulated inside airplanes causes discomfort or illness. The GAO,
Congress's investigative arm, said in its report that the FAA's
research plans are too limited.
"FAA has not yet
developed a detailed plan with key milestones and funding estimates
for conducting the planned surveillance and research program," the
FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette said past research has generally
shown that airplane air is cleaner than the air in most homes and
offices. She said the FAA, though, is funding several studies,
including one to monitor air inside passenger aircraft cabins.
"It's a recurring concern that passengers and flight attendants
have," Duquette said. "We are pursuing doing actual data collection
Currently, about 85 percent of large airliners use
hospital-grade filters — called high-efficiency particulate
air filters — which health experts say is the best way to
protect passengers from viruses and bacteria, the report said. A
smaller percent of planes that carry fewer than 100 passengers use
the filters, the GAO said.
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