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The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"Patience with the airlines is growing thin"
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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 01:01 GMT
Flight health risks under scrutiny
airline seats
The amount of leg-room on flights is causing concern
By Claire Doole in Geneva

Airlines representatives and scientists are meeting for the first time to try to gauge the possible health risks involved in long-haul travel.

The World Health Organisation organised the two-day conference in Geneva to shed light on the potentially lethal risks posed by long-haul flights to thousands of passengers.

A number of high profile cases of passengers dying from blood clots or deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) after travelling long distance has prompted fears of a link between the condition and air travel.

Scientists believe there is a risk connected to flying because of the long hours a passenger remains immobile.

'No evidence'

Airline officials say that is no scientific proof of any connection between DVT and long flights.

DVT: At most risk
People who have already suffered a DVT
Elderly people
People who have recently undergone abdominal surgery
"You can get deep-vein thrombosis as well as being pre-disposed to it and some people are, through any prolonged period of immobility," said Tim Goodyear of the International Air Transport Association

"It's just that some people, unfortunately, have succumbed to it after a long-distance flight. That doesn't indicate causation."

The airlines insist that blood clots could just as easily occur on long-haul bus or car trips.

But scientists fear air travellers could be more at risk because of the lack of opportunity to move about on a plane.

No-one knows how many people die of deep vein thrombosis a year but some scientists argue up to 10% of cases could be flight-related.

Individual airlines are carrying out research, but the WHO believes more needs to be done on a worldwide level.

It wants improved collaboration with the industry.

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | UK
The seats of discontent
18 Nov 00 | Health
Study backs blood clot fears
10 Nov 00 | Health
More evidence of flying risk
23 Oct 00 | C-D
Deep vein thrombosis
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