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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 03:11 GMT 04:11 UK
DVT campaigners lobby Euro MPs
Interior of a plane
The links between flying and DVT will be investigated
Relatives of victims of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) who developed the illness after air travel are calling on the European Parliament to ensure airlines provide better information for passengers.

Campaigners including Ruth Christoffersen from Newport, south Wales and Brenda Wilson, from Lancashire, have travelled to Strasbourg to lobby Euro-MPs and commissioners.

Mrs Christoffersen's daughter, Emma, was 28 when she collapsed and died shortly after arriving back in the UK from Australia, two years ago.

Emma Christoffersen
DVT victim Emma Christoffersen

Mrs Wilson's 32-year old son Neil, from Wigan, died in January this year, nine hours after flying with his wife and two children to Benidorm.

Last month, the World Health Organisation agreed to a 1.2m study into the condition, which has repeatedly been linked to air travel, but without clear scientific proof.

The campaigners say that passengers should be better informed about the condition.

They are due to meet EU Commissioners David Byrne, responsible for health policy, and Loyola de Palacio, in charge of EU transport strategy.

They want the EU to introduce legislation obliging airlines to provide:

  • pre-takeoff health briefings for all flights, similar to the compulsory on-board safety briefings
  • DVT information - particularly on preventive action - on airline tickets
  • passenger information on the percentage degree of seat pitch in economy class
They also want EU funds to be allocated to research projects assessing the health risks from DVT, particularly on long-haul flights.

'Informed choice'

The two women will meet Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy and representatives from the Aviation Health Institute to help press their case at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"The death of Brenda's son shows this is not just a long-haul problem.

"Flying is one of the safest forms of travel, but for a minority of people who are susceptible, there is a real risk from blood clots and the outcome can be tragic.

"If taking aspirin, wiggling your toes or wearing flight socks can save lives, let's give people that information so they can make an informed choice."

Medical history

DVT campaigner and Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith, who chairs an all-party parliamentary group set up to investigate the causes of the condition, said he was pleased progress was being made.

The research programme will aim to identify which travellers are most at risk from DVT, which has been dubbed 'economy class syndrome'.

Factors such as past history of thrombosis, use of oral contraceptives and genetic links are among the areas to be studied.

The study will also look at the effects of alcohol consumption, leg exercises and compression stockings, as well as low cabin pressure and oxygen levels on flights.
Interior of a plane
Doctors believe cramped conditions are a factor

The research also intends to offer guidance to travellers.

The European Commission is expected to provide additional funding, with preliminary results available within a year.

More than 40 long haul airline passengers are known to have died from DVT clots.

Medical research has shown that clots develop in blood vessels deep in the legs when circulation slows.

The clots can prove fatal if they break off and are carried to the lungs, blocking the flow of blood.

Brenda Wilson, mother of DVT victim
"It is happening to the young and fit....airlines need to recognise this is a problem"
BBC Wales's Gilbert John
"Mrs Christoffersen says there's sufficient evidence for precautions to be taken"
See also:

14 May 02 | Wales
21 Mar 02 | England
23 Oct 00 | C-D
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