From the spread of disease to deep vein thrombosis, air travel is not without its health risks. But a much less commonly known hazard associated with flying is the extensive exposure to radiation.
Air travel takes us significantly closer to the outer limits of the Earth’s atmosphere, making us more at risk of exposure to dangerous cosmic radiation.
When we have our feet planted safely on the ground, we are protected from the tiny atomic particles bouncing around space at light speed due to our magnetic field. But when cruising at 39,000 feet, the atomic particles can pummel our cells if they happen to collide with the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to NASA, people inside a plane at cruising height are significantly more likely to be exposed to energized atoms that leak through the atmosphere. In fact, the rate of radiation exposure can be so high that airline crew members around the globe are classified as “radiation workers” due to their exposure to cosmic rays.
In the US, workers in this industry have even been recorded as having the highest yearly dosage on average out of all radiation workers in the country — even more than people who work at nuclear reactors. This means that, in theory, flying in a plane could expose you to more radiation than physically standing next to a nuclear reactor.
Eddie Semones, a radiation health officer at NASA, SAYS: “Cosmic rays are not a significant exposure risk on the ground.
“You actually get more exposure from the Earth’s natural radioactive material than from galactic cosmic rays.”
An emerging body of research is suggests that soaring 35,000ft (10km) above the ground inside a sealed metal tube can do strange things to our minds, altering our mood, changing how our senses work and even making us itch more.