Last week the Clinton administration came up with one of its nuttiest ideas yet. The U.S. Department of Transportation sent to 10 of the major U.S. airlines "guidelines" on how they should accommodate passengers with peanut allergies.
"Guidelines" have a peculiar way of becoming mandates if they're not heeded. In this instance, the DOT wants airlines to designate a "peanut-free zone" on each of their planes so that the less than one-tenth of one percent of Americans who have peanut allergies will not be exposed to them while in flight. The federal agency's proposal is based on the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act, a law guaranteeing access to airlines for the disabled.
The proposal came after the DOT reviewed a Mayo Clinic study on how minute peanut particles collect in ventilation filters and wash through the plane after 5,000 hours of flight.
That's ridiculous! Did the DOT even consider a simpler solution, like changing the filters every 2,500 hours?
The agency also acknowledges that the real danger is if an allergic passenger ingests a peanut. But protecting allergic airline passengers from their own irresponsibility presents unwarranted cost to the airlines, an unwarranted loss of revenue to the peanut industry and is a role a federal government agency should not playing.
Thank goodness there are still some reasonable people in Washington, D.C. U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., blasted the "peanut-free zone" proposal Thursday and urged the Clinton administration to drop the whole idea.
"In a world where ridiculous federal regulations appear every day," said Barr, "this proposal is breathtaking in its absurdity. ... (it) is dumb and creates a slippery slope that may never end. Will the DOT also establish sweater-free zones for passengers allergic to wool, or perfume-free zones for passengers allergic to fragrances?"
Other lawmakers, particularly those in peanut-producing states, should join Barr in pressing the administration to drop this totally nutty idea.