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Radiation Exposure – Organizations differ in their approaches to limit crewmembers’ exposure to radiation

Exposure to ionizing radiation, a type of energy released by atoms in the form of electromagnetic waves, such X-ray and gamma waves, or particles, such as electrons or protons, is a regular part of life on earth. Natural sources of ionizing radiation include radioactive material in soil, water and vegetation, and human-made sources include X-rays and medical devices. Another source is cosmic radiation, which comes from the sun (solar) and outer space (galactic) and, according to the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), comprises about one-sixth of our exposure to natural radiation.

In aviation, ionizing radiation from natural sources is considered “occupational exposure” because of the high levels of galactic cosmic radiation at commercial cruise altitudes, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular (AC) 120-61B, In-Flight Radiation Exposure. And flight crewmembers’ exposure to ionizing radiation has received increased scrutiny in recent years because it presents potential physiological challenges.

Research into the health effects of ionizing radiation has been conducted for more than 100 years and has found that even low doses of ionizing radiation can increase the risk of long-term health effects, such as cancer, as well as a smaller risk of genetic effects. “It is 100 percent clear that radiation can even kill,” says Theresia Eberbach of the European Cockpit Association (ECA). “It is more difficult to determine at which level radiation exposure can cause damage to one’s health. This, in turn, is highly dependent on the individual’s health. Similar to tobacco consumption, it is difficult to say how much is too much, so one should try to avoid it as much as possible.”

Full story can be found on Flight Safety Foundation.

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