Radiation on the plane and during flights
We got the Geiger counter, convinced to measure increased radiation while in Japan, when all we were about to find, were values as average as radiation can get, mainly hitting the bottom-end of average, surprisingly lower than in any country we have visited so far. Old story, I know.
New story. It would turn out we didn’t buy the Gamma Scout for nothing. We would get sensational radiation on our way to Japan. During the flight, the Geiger measured levels of radiation that were spectacular. And it was the same sensational scenario on all long distance flights we measured thereafter.
GAMMA SCOUT ON PLANE
It is safe to carry a Gamma Scout on an airplane. It passes FCC Sec 15 standards and will not emit radio interference. The x-ray machine will not damage the Gamma Scout. The Gamma Scout contains no radioactive material and emits no ionizing radiation.
It seems everybody knows about increased radiation when flying. The plane obviously gets more of unfiltered cosmic and solar radiation. But do people know just about how much radiation they face? I didn’t (no worries, my intellect may not be representative of anything).
Let me tell you. What our Geiger picks up during flights, sets its integrated hazard-alarm-feature, regularly off. This happens when radiation values exceed 5 micro sievert/hour, that is up to 50 times above average.
Scientists have determined harmless levels of radiation to be at 0.100-0.200 micro sievert/hour.
Who cares? We are flying at our own risk, I know. I am watching safety demonstrations on the plane – I am provided with a safety jacket, oxygen mask – how about a radiation safety coat?
The extreme radiation passengers are exposed to is only temporary and planes fly at varying heights with fluctuating values. What are the risks for frequent flyers, pilots and flight assistants? I did some maths to put ‘extreme’ into perspective.
I found this interesting article on radiation levels and health implications for cabin crew as well as frequent flyers during (transatlantic) flights:
‘RADIATING’ FACTS ON BOARD
20th March 2012. Our first flight with the Geiger counter. Going to Tokyo through Berlin, Frankfurt and Beijing. It was new shoes versus direct flight, okay?
Berlin. We are still not very high up. I wish to specify ‘not very high up’ but they wouldn’t let me into the cockpit. ‘Healthy’ values exceeded way over 10 times here.
Same day same flight. Higher up. More radiation. 20 times more.
Values drop dramatically on the plane as we have arrived in Frankfurt. Everything’s back to normal, even below average.
20th March 2012. Connecting long distance flight, which means high altitude, from Frankfurt to Beijing. Exceeding average radiation 30 times.
We are now 40 times above acceptable values during the flight from Frankfurt to Beijing. Feels good to know that on the ground in Tokyo, radiation was dandy again.
11th August 2012. We are on our way from Thailand/Koh Samui to Norway/Oslo, going through Singapore and England/London.
On the plane at Koh Samui Airport (before take off).
Flight from Koh Samui to Singapore. Same scenario as on every flight. Values rise way above average, once in the air. We are still rather low on altitude, hence ‘only’ 10 times too much radiation.
We progressively rise in altitude and radiation.
Reaching 20 times average radiation on our short distance flight to Singapore. And now the scary part (again): that’s just (airline served) peanuts in comparison to long distance/transatlantic fights.
Long distance flight from Singapore to London. We are almost 40 times over what’s considered to be tolerable for human beings.
Then definitely over 40 times the average dose. And this time I can tell you how high we were, because…
…the seat monitors displayed altitude, speed and temperature. So, at about 11000m altitude, radiation levels are no fun at all, nor is outside air temperature.
The monitors also displayed our current location: we were pretty close to our home town Szczecin, aiming ‘high’ for London. So high that we exceeded the limit of 5 micro sievert/hour (when we were asleep). Geiger was definitely alarmed – on the next picture the display shows a tiny warning sign in the right corner.
Connecting flight from London to Oslo. As you can see, way over 10 times average radiation. Here, we noticed the warning sign that had come up on the display. We were exposed to radiation levels, which were 50 times higher than normal.
The flight from London to Oslo was no better. We are getting buckets full of radiation, with some potentially harmful dose of 40 times too much of the invisible stuff.
The mean thing is that as we received an abundance of radiation, we were about to get poisoned orally. See how many flavour enhancers, colouring agents and preservatives you can spot. The world is not fair. Hungry but full with radioactivity, we arrived in Oslo.
Good news. If you are about to board mini planes like these… you are not going to get very far but also not very high, which is great, because radiation is going to be low.
17th August 2012. We are flying from Oslo to another Norwegian town, called Florø. Radiation is only an itsy-bitsy-tiny-bit over average. Not even worth to mention, when flying, really. It’s funny, because we got similarly increased values almost all the time when touring Kuala Lumpur city in Malaysia, values which ironically turned out to be low in contrast to amazing radiation in our hotel.
4th September 2012. Flying from Oslo/Norway to Budapest/Hungary. That was one unforgettable RyanAir scam experience. Oh, and radiation was over 30 times above average.
I really must check, if I am not glowing in the dark. Although I haven’t heard anyone saying I was too ‘bright‘, lately.
Scary stuff, huh? I mean: comments are welcome.