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November 9, 2004
You Know Aero Mexico Laughed At This One

This isn't the most pleasant article to read the day after flying in from Southern California, but it's good to keep in mind for future travel plans. Just make sure you take your own bottled water on your next flight while traveling domestically:

New water quality inspections on airliners were initiated Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency in response to the discovery of coliform bacteria in the drinking water of one in every eight planes it tested. ...

In August and September, the EPA tested drinking water aboard 158 randomly selected domestic and international passenger aircraft and found that 12.6 percent did not meet federal standards.

Twenty of the planes that were tested which ranged from small commuter aircraft and jumbo jets tested positive for total coliform bacteria, signaling the possible presence of other harmful bacteria. Two planes tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal illness if it is severe enough.

EPA officials have advised passengers whose immune systems are compromised to avoid drinking water from airplane galleys or lavatories.

It's really no laughing matter; the First Mate takes immunosuppressive medication and an infection from these types of bacteria could create a serious health emergency. Fortunately, she drank bottled water almost exclusively, except for a cup of tea on the return flight on Northwest. I doubt that the water ever reached boiling temperature, but hopefully it got hot enough to kill anything worrisome.

The US airline industry should feel embarrassed with the results of this survey. These findings would shut down restaurants if local health departments found them there instead of on airplanes. The airlines have steadily reduced food quality to meet the demands of competition and profit expectations, and while that experience has been understandably disappointing gastronomically, we don't expect it to be potentially deadly. After bailing out the airlines in the wake of 9/11, is an expectation of sanitary conditions and potable drinking water really too much to ask?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 9, 2004 5:14 PM

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