Radiation protection - also a topic above the clouds

Flying has become a matter of course nowadays. However, if you fly a lot, you expose yourself to increased radiation. Why? High-energy radiation from space constantly hits the earth. The atmosphere shields a large part of the radiation, but at high altitudes, such as on a plane, the radiation exposure increases. The term cosmic radiation refers to the ionizing radiation occurring in the atmosphere. It has its origin in high-energy particle radiation from space - cosmic radiation. The average annual natural radiation exposure due to cosmic radiation (space, sun) at sea level is 0.3 mSv (= Millisievert). The unit of effective dose is 1 Sv (Sievert), which today replaces the previously used unit rem (1Sv = 100 rem).

Radiation exposure depending on the altitude

The higher a plane climbs, the more exposed it is to radiations from outer space. For example, a flight from Frankfurt to New York leads to a radiation load of 42 microsieverts (μSv). 24 hours at altitudes up to 10, 000 meters, which come together on a flight to Auckland, result in a dose of 78 μSv for the passenger. Among other things, the radiation exposure depends on the altitude, duration of flight and geographic conditions (the radiation increases in the direction of the pole).

Website for calculation of radiation exposure

The Institute for Radiation Protection of the GSF Research Center for Environment and Health in Neuherberg near Munich now provides a website that can be used to calculate the expected radiation dose for each flight. The calculation is based on the EPCARD (European Program Package for the Calculation of Aviation Route Doses), which was developed with the support of the EU. The calculated doses of radiation should make most frequent flyers breathe a sigh of relief: they would have to fly 400 times a year across the Atlantic to reach the limit of 20 mSv recommended by the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) for occupationally exposed persons.

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