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Cosmic radiation is a type of energy that comes from space. It’s made up of tiny particles that travel at very high speeds [9]. When we’re on the ground, the Earth’s atmosphere protects us from most of this radiation. But when we fly in airplanes, we’re higher up in the atmosphere, so we’re exposed to more of it[2].

While the amount of radiation you get from a single flight is usually small, it can add up if you fly often. Here are some reasons why it’s good to know about flight radiation:

2. Frequent flyers: If you travel a lot for work or pleasure, you might want to keep track of your exposure over time [5].
3. Pregnancy concerns: Pregnant women often wonder if flying is safe for their baby [1].
4. Career considerations: Pilots and flight attendants are exposed to more radiation because of their job [6].

## Introducing the Flight Radiation Calculator

Our Flight Radiation Calculator is a simple tool that helps you estimate how much radiation you might be exposed to during a flight. Here’s how to use it:

1. Enter your flight time in hours, minutes, or seconds.
2. The calculator uses a default dose rate of 0.003 mSv/h (millisieverts per hour), which is an average for most flights [3].
3. Click calculate, and you’ll see your estimated radiation dose for the flight.
4. The calculator will also show you how this compares to the average yearly radiation exposure in the United States.

## How Does the Calculator Work?

The calculator uses this simple formula:

``Radiation Dose (mSv) = Flight Duration (hours) × Dose Rate (mSv/h)``

For example, if you’re on a 5-hour flight:

``Radiation Dose = 5 hours × 0.003 mSv/h = 0.015 mSv``

When we talk about radiation, we use special units of measurement. Here’s a quick guide:

• Sievert (Sv): This is the main unit for measuring radiation’s effect on the human body.
• Millisievert (mSv): This is one-thousandth of a Sievert. We often use this for flight radiation.
• Microsievert (μSv): This is one-millionth of a Sievert. It’s used for very small amounts of radiation.

To put things in perspective, the average person in the United States is exposed to about 6.2 mSv of radiation per year from all sources [10].

## Factors That Affect Radiation Exposure During Flights

Several things can change how much radiation you’re exposed to when flying:

1. Flight Duration: Longer flights mean more exposure to radiation.
2. Altitude: The higher the plane flies, the more radiation you’re exposed to. Most commercial flights cruise between 30,000 and 40,000 feet [4].
3. Latitude: Flights near the Earth’s poles get more radiation because of how the Earth’s magnetic field works [2].
4. Solar Activity: The sun’s activity can affect radiation levels. During periods of high solar activity, cosmic radiation levels at flight altitudes are generally lower [2].

## Comparing Flight Radiation to Other Sources

• Chest X-ray: about 0.1 mSv [13].
• Dental X-ray: about 0.005 mSv [13].
• Mammogram: about 0.4 mSv [13].
• CT scan: 2-10 mSv (depending on the type) [13].
• A flight from New York to London: about 0.05-0.07 mSv [9].

For most people, the radiation from occasional flights is not a significant health concern. The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommends that the public should not be exposed to more than 1 mSv per year above background radiation [7].

To put this in perspective, you would need to take about 200 flights from New York to London in a year to reach this limit from flying alone.

## Special Considerations for Frequent Flyers and Airline Crew

People who fly very often or work on airplanes might need to pay more attention to their radiation exposure. The ICRP recommends that workers should not be exposed to more than 20 mSv per year on average over five years [7].

Many airlines use special software to track radiation exposure for their crew members to ensure they stay within safe limits [3].

## Flying and Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you might be worried about radiation exposure during flights. The good news is that occasional air travel during pregnancy is generally considered safe [1]. However, if you’re a pregnant airline crew member, your employer should ensure your exposure is limited to 1 mSv during your pregnancy [7].

## Tips to Reduce Radiation Exposure from Flying

While it’s not practical to avoid flying altogether, here are some tips to minimize your radiation exposure:

1. Choose shorter flights when possible.
2. If you have a choice, fly at lower latitudes (closer to the equator) [2].
3. Consider taking breaks between frequent long-distance trips.
4. Use our Flight Radiation Calculator to keep track of your exposure.

## The Future of Flight Radiation Protection

Scientists and engineers are always working on ways to make flying safer. Here are some areas they’re focusing on:

1. Better Shielding Materials: Researchers are looking for new materials that could better protect passengers and crew from radiation [14].
2. Improved Monitoring: New technologies are being developed to measure radiation levels more accurately during flights [12].
3. Advanced Prediction Models: Scientists are working on better ways to predict radiation levels based on solar activity and other factors [8].

## Conclusion

Understanding flight radiation is an important part of being an informed traveler. While the radiation exposure from most flights is relatively low, it’s good to be aware of it, especially if you fly frequently.

Calculate Miles to Dollars

References

1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2018). Air Travel During Pregnancy. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 746.
2. Bazilevskaya, G. A., et al. (2014). Cosmic ray induced ion production in the atmosphere. Space Science Reviews, 182(1-4), 409-425.
3. Bottollier-Depois, J. F., et al. (2012). Assessing exposure to cosmic radiation during long-haul flights. Radiation Research, 177(5), 725-738.