[ RadSafe ] Radiation Measurements in Planes

Ross Brown ross.brown at sympatico.ca
Tue Dec 19 14:55:44 CST 2006

With regard to Charlie Eller's comment on taking a Rem ball on flights, many such measurements have been made. Transport Canada has done considerable research on the total exposure at aircrew several years ago. With the cooperation of the airline union, detectors were placed on many long-distant flights so that the effects of altitude, routes, sun spots, etc. could be analyzed. For more information, I would suggest seeing B.J. Lewis, P. Tune, et al., "Cosmic Radiation Exposures on Canadian-Based Commercial Airline Routes," Radiat. Prot. Dosim. 86(1), 7-24 (1999)

Depleted uranium was used at flap counterweights on most, if not all, jumbo jets but in the mid 1990's, some of it was being phased out due to regulatory and contamination concerns. Tungsten is also a possibility but it tends to be more expensive. I am not aware of what is currently being used but the information would be available from the aircraft manufacturers or regulatory agencies. In any case, exposures to passengers from depleted uranium would be negligible compared to cosmic radiation and possibly nuclear medicine shipments or patients on the flight. Tritium is also used in aircraft emergency exit signs.   

Ross Brown
Ottawa, Canada

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