MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: please explain how airline cabins are radioactive

Date: Wed Jan 20 07:42:51 1999
Posted By: William Lorenzen, Staff, Radiation Safety, Children's Hospital
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 916535121.En

In old aircraft they used radium (a radioactive material) in the dials and 
gauges in the cockpit.  There were a number of lawsuits in days past which 
claimed pilots were exposed to excess radiation from these numerous 
dial/gauges in the plane.  The radium as used in combination with a 
fluorecent materail to make the dial/gauge glow in the dark.

These types of radium dial/gauges are no longer used.

Today the radiation exposure in an aircraft comes from cosmic radiation 
from outerspace which, because of the planes altitude (closer to 
outerspace), the flight crew (attendents as well as pilots) are exposed to 
more radiation than most normal occupations.  Most are logging thousands of 
high altitude miles each year.

No scientific evidence has identified any health risk to this occupation 
dispite the general knowleged of this known enhanced exposure to a natural 
source of radiation.

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