Pilots_radiation_web

Pilot perils

There really is no such thing as a “safe tan” unless it is painted on and even then you have to be careful of what is in the tanning solution. Ultraviolet-A and ultraviolet-B wavelengths of light can cause damage to cellular DNA and it seems that UVA is most closely linked to melanoma. If you receive your dose of UVA at the beach or in a tanning salon then the effect on your skin is the same. The thing is of course, that people at the beach and the tanning salon are fully aware that they are getting exposure but new research shows that pilots may be unexpecting recipients of UVA’s dubious blessings.

The researchers in the new study measured the amount of radiation in plane cockpits during flight and compared them to measurements taken in tanning beds. It needs to be said, that the amount of UV measured in tanning beds will vary from salon to salon in composition, so the results found here apply only in strict terms to the salons tested in the United States by the University of California researchers.

The cockpit radiation was measured in the pilot seat of a general aviation turboprop plane through the acrylic plastic windshield at ground level and then at various heights above sea level. The sun exposures were measured in San Jose, California and in Las Vegas at midday in April (Spring).

The results showed that plane windshields do not completely block UVA radiation and that flying for 56.6 minutes at 30,000 feet exposes the pilot to the same amount of radiation as that from a 20 minute session in a tanning salon.

It is a cautionary tale for all pilots and hopefully future inflight announcements might go something like, “Good morning passengers, we are flying at 30,000 feet, and the co-pilot is currently applying sunblock to my cheeks and nose. I’ll be applying her sun protection directly I finish speaking to you. Ooh, just a bit there by my ear…you missed it. That’s got it. OK passengers, enjoy your flight, we’ll be arriving at our destination by 5pm and we’ll be sun-protected all the way. Enjoy your flight.”

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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