New Air Travel Security Rules Pose Problems for People with Diabetes
New federal regulations prohibiting passengers from bringing "cutting instruments" aboard airplanes has created a potentially life-threatening complication for some people with diabetes who require insulin injections, the Las Vegas Sun reports. The American Diabetes Association said Monday that some people with Type I diabetes have had difficultly bringing their hypodermic needles and blood testing kits through airport security checks following last week's terrorist attacks, which prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit the inclusion of sharp objects as carry-on items. People with Type I, or "juvenile onset," diabetes often have to check their insulin levels by using a blood test that requires a "sharp pin-like object called a lancet." Kris Knutson of the Diabetes Treatment Center in Las Vegas said that these people sometimes need insulin before having a meal on the plane; in addition, the group advises them "never" to pack their insulin in check-in bags because the luggage could get lost. According to the ADA and other advocacy groups, the FAA has not clarified how the new rules apply to people with diabetes. Linda Rutherford, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, said that people with diabetes who show prescription forms "and the bracelets or necklaces diabetics use to identify their condition" are allowed to bring their injection and blood testing kits on-board. Mary Hawkins, executive director of the Nevada Diabetes Association for Children and Adults, said her group is recommending that people with Type I diabetes take several steps before going to the airport, including telling airlines about their insulin kits when purchasing a ticket. Offering a possible solution to the problem, Hawkins said that people with diabetes could give flight attendants needles and blood testing kits upon boarding and then request them as needed (Rake, Las Vegas Sun, 9/18).
Others that may be affected by the changes in the airline industry regulations are organ recovery associations, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Last week, some organs could not be flown to awaiting recipients because of the grounding of all planes following Tuesday's attacks. In the long term, a reduction in the number of flights could force organ recovery groups to use "costlier charter flights" instead of commercial airlines. In addition, increased security -- including the new rule that organ packages go through X-ray machines -- could mean that organs do not get to a location in time for transplant or are instead sent to a location closer to the donation area (St. Petersburg Times, 9/19).
Meanwhile, last week's attack increased the possibility that airlines and the U.S. government will look to "biometrics systems" to enhance security at airports, the New York Times reports. These systems identify passengers by fingerprints, retina patterns, voices or "other individual characteristics." Costing "hundreds of thousands of dollars," biometrics systems would have to be linked to government databases in order to identify "known or suspected terrorists" (Feder, New York Times, 9/19).