Is radiation from air travel dangerous ?

Every time you fly in an airplane you’re exposed to radiation from cosmic rays, which are high-energy particles from outer space pilots and flight attendants or even classified by the Center for Disease Control as radiation workers. What does that radiation make flying dangerous well no even if you’re a frequent flyer you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

We’re all exposed to very small amounts of ionizing radiation every day, the kind that has enough energy to knock out electrons from atoms so it can also break chemical bonds or damaged DNA. But your body is built to handle things going wrong in your cells by fixing them or replacing any damage cells with new ones.

All this background radiation comes from radon in the air and uranium and thorium in the soil. You even have some radioactive carbon 14 and potassium 40 inside your body like all living things on earth. And you’re still exposed to cosmic rays right here on the ground when you fly.

You just exposed to more since there’s less atmosphere above you around the world all this background radiation gives people an average annual dose of two and a half millisieverts (that’s one of the units used to describe radiation in the u.s.) it’s more like three millisieverts per year the international commission on radiological protection recommend that you keep your annual dose.

Beyond all that background stuff under 1 millisievert to put that in perspective, you have to fly back and forth from new york to london for around two hundred hours to reach that number. But going a little over isn’t necessarily dangerous, because most pilots and flight attendants have recommended dose limit of 20 millisieverts per year or six millisieverts per year if you work in the European Union and the risk of cancer is only thought to increase with doses of around 50 to 100 millisieverts per year which is way above any exposure from flying home a couple times.

Some studies suggest that flight crews have an increased risk for some cancers and reproductive disorders like 1 study made in 2009 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health so that pilots with more flight experience had more chromosomal translocations in their DNA is basically when parts of your chromosomes switch places when they shouldn’t, that being a sign of exposure to ionizing radiation and some risk of cancer especially leukemia and lymphoma but there are also studies that suggest flight crews don’t face any increased health risks and should just be aware of how much they’re working if they’re pregnant, so science is still working on this one. But as a passenger, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

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