Cosmic Rays and Human Health

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA ・9 Sources

The attendants of the airlines have tough jobs within their schedules while en route. Indeed, whereas they have to keep in conversation the inattentive passengers all along the journey, they are obliged to do so amidst a smile, just to entice their grumpy clients. Nevertheless, such could be just an example of a little challenge, as there is a perhaps a more fatal though silent episode which remains latent in most if the time; cosmic rays radiation. Indeed, cosmic radiation cannot be seen nor perceived by sight. However, these small particles are often soaring into space and in a highly charged capacity, slamming into the planet earth from all different directions (Hammer, Blettner, Langner, & Zeeb, 2012). Also this process is called the cosmic ionizing radiation. Cosmic rays originate from the reach of the far milk way. Emerging from atomic cores, these rays have the astounding capacity to pass through everything and anything they come by in their way. Considering their speed and energy, the cosmic radiation can go through the human flesh, whose consequences as an eventuality are dire to our health. Other than reproductive malfunctions, the most feared effects of the cosmic radiation include the alteration of the human deoxyribonucleic acid, an occurrence which could trigger both benign and malignant forms of cancer. Fortunately, the earth’s atmosphere and its geomagnetic field form a formidable cover around the planet, protecting the human life that could be at a more adverse risk were it not for the same. Nevertheless, it is imperative that the shield is not impermeable in as an entirety, as some cosmic rays radiations are capable of penetrating through, although on a minimal scale. Considering the aspect of altitude, the closer one is on the ground the safer they are, which then implies that the flight attendants as well as the pilots, and the flight crew in totality is at a more risk than other people on the surface of the planet, which connotes the former are highly exposed to the cosmic rays, and hence the increased vulnerability to its health effects. Consequently, while the Center For Disease Control refers to the aircrews as a people who fall into the category of radiation workers, on the other hand, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements has argued based on scientific evidence that the air crews are the most exposed people to radiation following the annual and the cumulative dosages measured in 2009 in the US (Grajewski et al., 2011). The aircrew is exposed to double a number of radiation people on the ground are predisposed to because the latter spend most of their time in the upper atmospheres. Furthermore, space explorations including astronaut journeys to mass are highly predisposing, which calls for pertinent scientific research to strategize on remedying factors. Therefore, other than exploring how radiation doses are measured in aircraft, it is critical for the airline crews and passengers to know that they are at an increased risk of health problems due to higher exposure to solar radiation.
One of the influencing factors of cosmic radiation is the aspect of altitude. It has been scientifically proven that both the increase in altitude and latitude leads to the growing exposure to cosmic rays. Imperative for the aircrew, research by The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has culminated in the publication of two critical documents highlighting the distributions of radiation in the earth’s atmosphere, and the high-density regions have been noted with the corresponding increase in altitude, making it possible to monitor the cosmic rays in real time. It has been confirmed that at an elevation of about 36 thousand feet, high up the aircraft are rays zooming in from the outer space (Lim, 2002).A chain that manifests as phenomenal particle decays is evidenced when the speed particles crash in the upper atmosphere into molecules. Indeed, both the human beings and the electronics in the thinner stratosphere are highly predisposed to such radioactive elements, as opposed to those on the surface of the earth. In 2015, the Dosimeter Experiment by The National Aeronautics and Space Administration carried out by sending an air balloon into the atmosphere revealed a lot of insight about how altitude plays a significant role in cosmic radiation. It was realized that with increasing height, the intensity of radiation increases and hence the escalating vulnerability of human health, considering the continuous schedules that keep the aircrew in the upper atmosphere (Lim, 2002). The sun has been said to be a primary source of the cosmic rays following the happening of the solar storms. However, the high energy and very radioactive particles as well come from the outside of the solar system, and they likewise pose a similar danger.
The other second most important element that influences cosmic radiation is the aspect of solar radiation. Other than the sunlight received intensity, the other vital relationship between the sun and the earth is the element of cosmic rays projected toward the surface of the earth. Research has proved that the cosmic rays are inversely proportional to the intensity of the solar activity. It has been revealed that when the solar activity is very high, then the magnetic field as well intensifies. Nevertheless, it should be noted that with an escalated intensity of the magnetic field, it automatically follows that the amount of cosmic radiation that can penetrate and pass through is highly reduced. As such, the geomagnetic field street is inversely proportional to the net comic radiation projected toward the earth’s surface, just as is the case with the solar activity (Sidharth & Valluri, 2015). As opposed to this, the solar activity is thus directly proportional to the amount of solar activity, in that when the former goes up, the latter intensifies as well.
The third and most critical aspect that influences the intensity of the cosmic rays radiation is the factor of location in the geomagnetic field. The geomagnetic field extends from the inner segment of the planet earth and curves out into space, wherein it interacts with the charged particles named the solar wind that is projected from the sun. Theoretically, extrapolates at an angle of 10 degrees off the axis of the Earth, the geomagnetic field is projected outwards, and it is approximated at between 25 and 65 microteslas (Sidharth & Valluri, 2015). Many cosmic rays are blocked from reaching the surface of the earth, following the giant magnetospheres that curve around the circumference of the earth. Nevertheless, the particles which have too much energy to be resisted have the ability to penetrate the geomagnetic sphere. However, they are stopped after reacting with the particle of both nitrogen and oxygen. The hypothesis of electromagnetic and nucleonic cascades is evidenced when the reaction happens, leading to the decay of the very cascades. Through evidence postulation, Seidel, Lautenschläger, Dunst, & Müller (2012) argues that if one could see through the window of the plane into space above, he or she could be able to see the cascade clustering in the area above the aircraft (p. 33). The Pfotzer maximum is a region of concentrated particles following the reaction of the high energy cosmic ray penetrative particulate matter and nitrogen and oxygen gases, and this area of radiation is commonly formed at an altitude of 60 thousand feet off the ground, and thus the positioning with respect to both the aspect of altitude and the geomagnetic strength, it really factors out the effects of the resultant cosmic radiation.
There are a multiple health risk factors that are consequences of the exposure to cosmic rays, including both the benign and the malignant forms of breast cancer and melanoma. It should be noted that both the decayed and the high energy, and hence highly radioactive particles have very severe and fatal effects on the human body, even though the onset of their effects is often not easily predictable. The cell functions are easily altered intensity when the cosmic particles come in contact with the human deoxyribonucleic acid for reproducing free radicles that are in turn very highly radioactive (Schultz, 2013). The free ridicules go around the body knocking down electrons and mutilating the integrity of the cells, hence leading to different forms of malignancies. Indeed, both cytogenetic and genetic damage are confirmed effects of cosmic radiation. To this effect, it has been confirmed that both the aircrew and the cabin crew have far much more potential risk of the outcomes than the people on the surface of the earth. This is because high energy cosmic radiation can trigger the deoxyribonucleic acid and cause diverse forms of cancer. Also referred to as malignant melanoma, melanoma originates from the cells called melanocytes that contain the dark pigmentation of melanin, following the increased exposure to cosmic radiation. Although melanomas can be manifested in the eyes, the mouth and the thin membranes exposed to the outside environment, it has been confirmed that in most cases melanomas are phenomenal on the integumentary tissue; the skin. Although they are not only limited to these body segments, anatomically, the melanomas are said to occur mostly on the back for the male gender, whereas they are most common in manifestation on the legs of the female sex. Signs and symptoms would include the occurring of a mole, which has specific and distinguishing characteristics like itchiness, irregular edges, skin breakdown as well as a change in color (Seidel et al., 2012). On the other hand, increased and continuous exposure to cosmic radiation for the crew could easily trigger breast cancer, characteristically among the female gender. The cells that form the inner lining of the lobules are the origin of the malignancies, and the cancerous tumor could be malignant to spread to other anatomical body regions, a process called metastasis. Both lobular and ductal carcinomas have been confirmed among the female crew that has fallen victims of the cosmic radiation, both the forms are originating from the lobules and the ducts of the milk ways in the female breast respectfully (Schultz, 2013). Therefore, cosmic radiation is a paramount health factor especially among the aircrew, as it triggers not only breast cancer and skin melanomas, but also predisposes the affected individuals to other forms of cancer.
There are multiple ways through which radiation doses are measured on airlines. While some methodologies embrace the philosophy of how much radiation is present in the atmosphere, others endeavor to unfold the extent and intensity the measured dosage could cause significant harm to human tissues. The latter is the typical approach for quantifying comic radiation effects and bar far the most standardized. Nevertheless, the approach is the most notorious and hence the hardest to establish, as it requires the experts not only to realize which form of radiation emits the waves but also the quantification of the energy in the particle that poses the health risk. One of the methods that are used for estimating the radiation dose on airplanes is the film badges (Bagshaw, 2008). Also called the dosimeter, the film badges have the capacity to monitor cumulative exposure to ionizing radiation for an individual. The holder and the photographic film are two integral parts of the badge. In the cases of cosmic radiation or any other forms of radiation, the photographic film can record the waves. Although not all, the films have two dosimeters, one for the high whereas another one is for the low dose of radiation measurements. Once the exposure is complete, the film is removed in a dark environment to avoid the interference of light, and then developed to quantitatively; estimate the amount of radiation one will have been exposed to. Indeed, the badge is very vital because it measures the gamma radiation, the beta as well as the x-ray emissions.
Furthermore, there are other computers modeling programs that are critical in measuring the radiation on the aircraft, including the CARI, EPCARD, SIEVERT, as well as the PCAIRE. CARI is a computer based excel program that runs to estimate the amount of radiation detected at various longitudes, latitudes, and altitudes, and the rates of cosmic radiation are easily calculated from the findings. On the other hand, the European Program Package for the Calculation of Aviation Route Doses is a form of computer-based software that helps measure some radiation aircrews are exposed to (Langner et al., 2004). EPCARD becomes indispensable while measuring cosmic rays` penetrative impact at an altitude between 5 and 25 kilometers off the surface of the earth. As such, this mechanism is crucial in helping the airlines monitor and respond to the radiation exposure accordingly. Symbolized as Sv, the SIEVERT is a unit named after Maximilian Sievert, and it is used to estimate the ionizing radiation that can penetrate the human body. This system of SIEVERT is critical when it comes to determining the amount of radiation that can not only alter the human deoxyribonucleic acid but also capable of causing different forms of cancer. Finally, the Aircrew dosimetry using the predictive code for crew radiation exposure (PCAIRE) is very vital when it comes to estimating and quantifying the amounts of radioactive waves in any altitude, global positioning, and it records the date as well. This system has since been improved into a more strategic and sophisticated mechanism to help monitor and measure the radioactive exposure (Langner et al., 2004).
In conclusion, therefore, Airline crews and passengers should know that they are at increased risk due to higher exposure to solar radiation. Furthermore, studies have projected that in the twenty-first century there is a likelihood of significant growth rates of airline travel, hence escalating the predisposition probabilities of those already at risk. Consequently, there is need to strategize and put in place the relevant and suitable mechanisms to help counter the health risks associated with cosmic rays among other forms of radiation that the crew is often exposed to. It has been confirmed that exposure increases with an increasing altitude, reduced solar activity as well as reduced geomagnetic waves. Therefore, there is need to consider that vulnerability at hand and the cancers like melanoma and breast malignancies that are life threatening. Fortunately, there are methodologies which have been developed to help measure the presence of radioactive elements on the airplanes, so that remedies can be taken in time to avoid extreme harm among the aircrew.


Bagshaw, M. (2008). Cosmic radiation in commercial aviation. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 6(3), 125–127.
Grajewski, B., Waters, M. A., Yong, L. C., Tseng, C. Y., Zivkovich, Z., & Cassinelli, R. T. (2011). Airline pilot cosmic radiation and circadian disruption exposure assessment from logbooks and company records. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 55(5), 465–475.
Hammer, G. P., Blettner, M., Langner, I., & Zeeb, H. (2012). Cosmic radiation and mortality from cancer among male German airline pilots: Extended cohort follow-up. European Journal of Epidemiology, 27(6), 419–429.
Langner, I., Blettner, M., Gundestrup, M., Storm, H., Aspholm, R., Auvinen, A., … Linnersjö, A. (2004). Cosmic radiation and cancer mortality among airline pilots: Results from a European cohort study (ESCAPE). Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, 42(4), 247–256.
Lim, M. K. (2002). Cosmic rays: are air crew at risk? Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 59(7), 428-32–3.
Schultz, C. (2013). New physical model calculates airline crews’ radiation exposure. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 94(49), 484.
Seidel, C., Lautenschläger, C., Dunst, J., & Müller, A.-C. (2012). Factors influencing heterogeneity of radiation-induced DNA-damage measured by the alkaline comet assay. Radiation Oncology, 7(1), 61.
Sidharth, B. G., & Valluri, S. R. (2015). Cosmic Background Radiation. International Journal of Theoretical Physics, 54(8), 2792–2797."

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