eLi5: How dangerous is cosmic radiation exposure for airline pilots?


Pilots fly all year long and are exposed cosmic radiation

In: 8

edit: I guess the levels of acceptable radiation vary in different countries and different institutions, so it’s pretty up in the air as to what’s dangerous or not. no pun intended lol


The magnetosphere protects us from radiation, and that extends far into space.

An average pilot would get about 2.7mS of extra dose a year. That means that fast energetic particles would zip through the pilots body and possibly give them a slightly elevated risk for cancer. You might be able to see this if you compared a large group of pilots to a large group of non pilots. You might see a very small increase in cancer in the pilots. Cancer in these cases would be caused by the particles damaging the cells of the pilots causing them to grow uncontrollably.

I read somewhere that fighter pilots and astronauts tend to throw girls more than boys and it seems to be related to time at altitude. AOPA might have information on this.

In France, flying personal are followed by the IRSN, the administration who is in charge of monitoring the dose received by nuclear workers. The yearly dose admissible for workers is 20 mSv/year, which corresponds roughly to 120 Paris-Tokyo flights (0.15mSv). By comparison, and X-ray is between 0.05 and 0.5 mSv. No effect on life was observed under 100 mSv/year.