Occupational Health & Safety

FAA to Test Obese Pilots for Sleep Disorders

The agency will begin screening all obese pilots for obstructive sleep apnea.

The FAA has announced plans to screen pilots and air traffic controllers with a body mass index of 40 or above for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). According to Dr. Fred Tilton, M.D., writing in the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin, "Untreated obstructive sleep apnea is a disqualifying condition for airmen and air traffic control specialists."

In his editorial, Tilton explained that OSA is "almost universal" in obese individuals who have a BMI over 40 and a neck circumference of 17 inches or more. The condition could jeopardize the safety of those relying on these individuals because it can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, sudden cardiac death and can lead to other serious impairments. The FAA will begin screening for this condition as part of a new policy.

According to PBS, those who are diagnosed with the condition will have to get treatment before returning to work. 

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