Background: Flight crews are exposed to elevated levels of cosmic radiation and to magnetic fields generated by the aircraft's electrical system. The purpose of this study was to quantify these two occupational exposures.
Methods: Magnetic fields were measured during 37 flights (23 in the cockpit and 14 in the cabin) using an Emdex Lite personal dosimeter. All cockpit measurements were taken on the B737/200. Cabin measurements were taken in several aircraft types, including the B737, B757, DC9, and L1011. Cosmic radiation was computer estimated for 206 flights using the Federal Aviation Administration's program CARI-3C.
Results: Magnetic field levels in the cockpit had a mean value of approximately 17 milliGauss (mG), while cabin measurements were lower (mean values of approximately 3 or less in economy, 6 in first class, 8 in front serving areas). Cosmic radiation equivalent dose rates to bone marrow and skeletal tissue ranged from 0.3 to 5.7 microsieverts per hour.
Conclusions: Elevated magnetic field levels in front serving areas and the cockpit suggest the need for further study to evaluate long-term exposure to flight crew members who work in these areas. Cosmic radiation levels are well below occupational limits for adults, but may require some pregnant flight crew members to adjust their flying time or routes.