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Oxygen masks in airplane bathrooms: Terrorism risk?
Oxygen generators are banned in airplane bathrooms so terrorists can't turn them into weapons. But what if passengers need that oxygen in an emergency?
The Federal Aviation Administration believes that emergency oxygen generators in airplane bathrooms could be used as weapons by terrorists.
The Federal Aviation Administration believes that emergency oxygen generators in airplane bathrooms could be used as weapons by terrorists.
CC BY: Miikka H
T

he Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to remove emergency oxygen generators from every bathroom in all 6,000 domestic commercial airliners, citing security concerns. FAA officials told NBC News that the move, which was made last month but kept secret for security reasons, was a precaution to prevent terrorists from using the equipment to start a fire or ignite a bomb. But this means anyone in a lavatory when an airplane loses cabin pressure will have no immediate access to oxygen. "I'm panicking just thinking about this," says Kate Hanni of Flyersrights.org, as quoted by MSNBC. Will this deter terrorists, or just endanger passengers?

This is a risky move: The supposed terrorism threat seems pretty murky, says Andrew Moran at Digital Journal. But reports of planes rapidly losing cabin pressure are not uncommon. This means that the next time it happens the bathroom will be a "death trap." So on your next trip, "be sure not go to the bathroom because you may die."
"FAA removes all airplane bathroom oxygen masks in U.S."

Terrorists are the scarier threat: Let's not lose our perspective, says Scott Carmichael at Gadling. In the rare event of rapid decompression, now you'll have to hold your breath until you can get to one of the many oxygen masks in the cabin. That's enough to fray some nerves. But the thought of a suicidal terrorist using an oxygen generator "to create a massive fire, too fierce to be put out by current extinguishers on the plane," is way more frightening.
"FAA orders removal of all airplane bathroom oxygen masks"

We won't have to wait long to see who is right: There are 40 to 50 rapid decompression incidents on airplanes worldwide every year, says Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo. The next time it happens on a domestic flight, anyone in the bathroom will have to run — "in the middle of a confusing emergency situation" — to reach their oxygen mask. We'll know soon enough whether the FAA's anti-terrorism precaution was worth the risk.
"New FAA rule turns airplane lavatories into deadly traps"

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