Will there be risks to U.S. travelers flying domestically in wake of Japan's nuclear disaster? Is anyone assessing?

Original Reporting | By Craig Gurian |

One spokesperson for a government-affiliated scientific research institute, speaking on background, suggested that, while our questions were entirely reasonable, it was necessary to understand that the answers to them might be complex, and would require the bridging of atmospheric science, energy science, and expertise on air travel — a combination, he said, involving collection and coordination of information between and among multiple government agencies.


Airline employee: concerns “both for ourselves and for our passengers”

For someone who flies for a living, however, the questions quickly become personal and basic. Remapping Debate spoke with a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. The worker, who did not want to be identified by name, first expressed concerns “both for ourselves” — meaning fellow airline personnel — “and for our passengers.”

Then the flight attendant expressed the desire to know what “universal precautions,” if any, were available to be taken. How, this worker wondered, would industry employees know “what to look for…and what to do” if there came to be above-normal levels of radiation in the jet stream — now or in the future.

After reflecting on the prospect of frequent travel over the next several weeks, the flight attendant had one more question for the government: are there “any contingency plans” if radioactive materials are found in the jet stream?

According to Carroll of Ploughshares, the government needs to have and demonstrate that it has intra-agency communication and coordination in place to make certain that issues of public health in the air are taken as seriously as issues of public health on the ground.

Send a letter to the editor