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</P> "Disinsection is the term used to describe the practice of spraying pesticides in various areas of an aircraft, including the passenger cabin, kitchen, cockpit, and cargo hold.

Aircraft toxins

"Disinsection" is the term used to describe the practice of spraying pesticides in various areas of an aircraft, including the passenger cabin, kitchen, cockpit, and cargo hold.

International law permits disinsection in order to protect public health, agriculture, and the environment from unwanted bugs that might carry disease. Canada does not require disinsection; however, Canadian aircraft must comply with the requirements of other countries.

Pesticides can be sprayed over the heads of passengers or applied by a "residual" method, whereby a long-lasting chemical is sprayed on the interior surfaces of unoccupied planes. This residue lasts up to 56 days.

The active ingredient in most of these pesticides is the nerve poison permethrin. Side effects reported by flight attendants, pilots, and passengers range from flu-like symptoms to neurological damage.

This year, an alternative, non-chemical means of disinsection-an air curtain producing a powerful stream of air to deter potential bug hitchhikers-is being tested by the US Department of Transport.

Until our planes are pesticide free, you can check out Transport Canada's website for an up-to-date list of countries that require disinsection.

Pesticide ban-one step forward

Physicians and environmentalists are concerned about the effects of pesticides on our health-particularly our children's health. In response, over 60 communities across Canada are banning or restricting the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on public spaces and private property.

In April 2004, Ontario physicians presented a review of literature on the effects of pesticides on human health. They found that pesticides, particularly organophosphates, disrupt the hormonal, reproductive, immune, neurological, and behavioural systems.

Pesticides were linked to memory loss, changes in cognitive behaviour, and even suicide. In children, these neurotoxins can alter the normal development of the brain and nervous system, leading to developmental delays, behavioural and attention problems, hyperactivity, and learning disabilities.

In a study conducted by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that all those tested had traces of pesticides in their bodies. The levels of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate, were well above safe levels. Though already banned for residential use in Canada, chlorpyrifos is still widely used on over 30 food crops, including wheat, peaches, and strawberries.

Although the restriction on the cosmetic use of pesticides is a positive step forward, until they are banned altogether, we and our children are still very much at risk. What can we do? Express your opinion through your pocketbook-buy organic.

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