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Exposures of Flight Attendants to Pyrethroid Insecticides in Commercial Aircrafts

Binnian Wei
M.S., 2007
Peking University

THESIS ADVISOR: Clifford P. Weisel, PH.D.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Inhalation, dermal and ingestion pyrethroid insecticide exposures of the flight crewmembers and passengers can occur during and following disinsection of aircraft that is required by a number of countries to prevent or minimize the transport of insects in order to protect the health of their country’s population and ecosystems. To assess the safety of this practice, I 1) investigated the pyrethroids levels on the interior surfaces and in the air within a mock Boeing 767 aircraft cabin under different simulated disinsection scenarios; 2) measured the urinary metabolite levels of pyrethroids in flight attendants working on both US domestic and international flights; and 3) developed a human physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model which incorporated dermal, inhalation and oral ingestion exposure routes to predict the internal exposures and target tissue doses of flight attendants to permethrin for different aircraft disinsection scenarios. A probabilistic risk assessment for permethrin in flight attendants working on disinsected aircrafts was then performed using the measured external exposure levels in the aircraft cabin, the internal biological levels based on measured urinary metabolite levels and predicted by the pharmacokinetic models along with values and estimates of permethrin exposure and dose reported in the literature. The overall results indicated that the practice of aircraft disinsection with pyrethroids, predominantly permethrin, elevated the pesticide body burden of the crewmembers working on disinsected commercial aircrafts more than order of magnitude compared to the general public, and the health risks from exposures to permethrin attributable to aircraft disinsection were above the acceptable level for a small percentage of flight attendants. It is therefore recommended that health agencies and airline industries evaluate the current practice of aircraft disinsection to assure that no flight attendants are exposed to permethrin levels without an adequate margin of safety to protect their health.

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