Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disinsection--I'm doused with toxic chemicals

I didn't know I needed it, but I got it. Sprayed with toxic chemicals on my way home to Switzerland from Vietnam last month.

You may ask...why? Did they inspect me and find evil cooties? No. Did I have products that made me suspect? No. Air France just sprayed me and all the passengers and crew flying Vietnam to Paris.

The first sign of what was coming came just after the cabin doors closed. A quick announcement that was hard to understand about pest spray that was harmless--and then pssssssssst came the two flight attendants hustling up and down the aisles with 2 cans each of insect sprays. No time to think, no time to react, and we were all sprayed with pesticides. Babies and everyone else. And with little air exchange, we got to breathe that mess for hours. Ugh.

With some digging, I learned a bit more. It's called "disinsection" and you don't have to give consent. The process is poorly controlled, not monitored or evaluated, and there are safer alternatives. Typically used chemicals include permethrin, a likely human carcinogen, and phenothrin, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Are the effects terrible? Probably not, but I still don't like the idea that I have no choice, I just get sprayed. I want to protect public health, but I also believe that informed consent is a good idea.

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