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Can Cosmic Radiation Affect Airplane Passengers?

It's not surprising that astronauts are in a high-risk cosmic radiation group, but are airline passengers and crew high enough to be affected by it?

It's not surprising that astronauts are in a high-risk group when it comes to experiencing adverse reactions caused by cosmic radiation.

Those reactions include cancer, memory problems, and premature aging.

The harmful rays are likely caused by exploding stars and black holes, and astronauts are out in the open with little to protect them.

But how high up is high enough to be affected by them?

While scientists have confirmed that being on a plane puts people in the contact range of cosmic radiation, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about how much of an impact it has on passengers and crew.

Some say the risk is negligible and barely worth considering. Others advise that people not take regular flights over either the North or South pole as that's where the radiation levels are often strongest.

In fact, airlines rotate crew to limit the number of times transpolar flights are required.

People fearful of how much radiation they could be exposed on a flight can go to the website for the US Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. They have a calculator that will help determine exposure levels on various routes.
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