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Hanna, Maloney Back Measure Promoting Child Safety Kits On Airplanes

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Two Congressmen from New York have taken the wraps off bipartisan legislation calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade emergency medical supplies for children on airplanes.

Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney of New York's 18th district and Republican Richard Hanna of the 22nd unveiled their measure on a conference call Wednesday with reporters.

Maloney notes that under current regulations, airlines are not bound to carry child-sized doses of emergency medicine, such as Epi-Pens, onboard passenger aircrafts.  "This is just an accident waiting to happen."

Hanna says children are among the most vulnerable in emergency situations, so the Airplane Kids in Transit Safety (KiTS) Act would address gaps in safety rules.  "You don't necessarily have to have an accident to do something that is so simple and basic and not particularly prescriptive and frankly not that expensive. We know that this, once enacted, is roughly the estimates are about a million dollars. We're not asking a lot. We know a lot of children fly, of course, and we think it's just something that hasn't been thought of or addressed, and it's part of what we do in Congress every day."

Both Hanna and Maloney have young children. Maloney points to a specific concern: the lack of epinephrine auto-injectors, like Epi-Pens, to treat children who are suffering from specific acute allergic reactions.   "Anybody who's got a kid who suffers from allergies knows that this could be the difference between life or death. And when you're 30,000 feet in the air it becomes a very serious issue very quickly if you don't have the right medicine for a child suffering a serious allergy attack," said Maloney.

Airlines for America, the airline industry’s trade association, issued a statement saying further mandates are unnecessary because airlines already comply with FAA regulations. However, Dr. Brian Moore, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Pediatric Emergency Medicine, agrees with Maloney and Hanna that an update to current regulations is overdue. "Children are not just little adults. They have important physical, physiological and developmental differences that make them especially vulnerable during emergencies. Put simply, the medications and medical devices used to keep our children safe at a moment's notice are not and should not be the same medicines and devices we rely on for adults.

The Academy contacted the FAA in January expressing its concerns.  The bill mandates planes carry child-sized versions of CPR masks, oral airways and bag mask valves used for resuscitation along with a stock of pediatric medicines like EpiPens Junior.  A Transportation Security Agency spokesman says the agency does allow families to bring their own EpiPens and other medicine on passenger planes. But Moore believes it's better to have and not need, than to need and not have.   "The Airplace KiTS Act is an important step forward for children's health and safety by requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to update the contents of the emergency medical kits to include appropriate medications and equipment for children."

Hanna expects airlines will embrace and comply with new regulations.  "This act doesn't tell them, the FAA, what they should prescribe. It simply directs them to investigate and then prescribe. So, it's open-ended, and people like Dr. Moore can weigh in and we're hopeful that within a year this will be enacted and we'll have done the right thing and updated these health kits that have always been in airplanes."

The Congressmen cite statistics provided by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, which indicate as many as 15 million people suffer from a food allergy, and allergies rank fifth among other leading chronic diseases in the U.S. Every 3 minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER, and roughly 150 Americans – most of them children – die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis*.

* a potentially severe or life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur very quickly—as fast as within a couple of minutes of exposure to the allergen.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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