Select Committee on Science and Technology Fifth Report


Call for Evidence

Issued in March, 2000

The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords has appointed Sub-Committee II, chaired by Baroness Wilcox, to conduct an Inquiry into the health effects of travelling in commercial aircraft. This has been prompted by public concerns about health in the air; the increasing numbers of air travellers; and developing knowledge of the links between health and environmental factors.

The focus of the Inquiry is the relationship between the various aspects of the environment for passengers and crew in commercial aircraft (e.g. air quality, in-cabin noise, cosmic radiation, seating arrangements and the scheduling of refreshments and rest periods) and the health of passengers and crew. General air safety and the impact of air travel on the wider environment are outside the scope of the Inquiry.

The Committee will take evidence in writing and in person, and produce a report to the House, with recommendations addressed to Government and others, later in the year. The questions below cover the whole range of the Inquiry. Individual witnesses may feel able to address only some. Written evidence is invited on these, to arrive by 2 May 2000.

1.  Which features of the aircraft cabin environment have an adverse effect on the health of passengers and crew? What are these effects?

    (a)  Are there significant variations between different aircraft?

    (b)  Do some effects correlate with the length of flight, frequency of flying or routes flown?

    (c)  Do some features of the cabin environment combine to produce magnified or different health effects?

    (d)  Are some people more at risk than others?

    (e)  Where is further research most needed?

2.  For passengers, are there adequate arrangements in place:

    (a)  to provide advice enabling them to make informed decisions about the health risks of flying?

    (b)  to check whether they are fit to fly?

    (c)  to help them minimise the chances of health problems occurring in-flight?

    (d)  to deal with medical emergencies associated with the cabin environment?

    (e)  to track effects which may appear post-flight?

What are the differences between these arrangements and those for the crew?

3.  To what extent does the health of passengers and crew influence national and international regulators, manufacturers, and airlines when considering civil aircraft designs and changes in practice? Will projected developments in the design and use of civil aircraft affect the health hazards of air travel?

4.  Is the enforcement of the regulations governing the aircraft cabin environment adequate throughout the lifetime of an aircraft's operation? Are present differences between on-ground and in-flight regulation justified? Are the minimum standards adequate to ensure that the health of passengers and crew is not compromised in the competition to reduce air fares?

5.  To reduce the risks of adverse health effects for passengers and crew, what changes might be made in:

    (a)  the regulatory framework?

    (b)  the design, use and maintenance of aircraft?

    (c)  the information provided to passengers and crew?

Would the costs be justified by the health benefits?

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