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Travelers' Aid

Plane Health
January 8, 2000

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Did you know when an airplane is at cruising altitude -- which is about 37,000 feet -- people aboard are exposed to potentially dangerous amounts of cosmic radiation? Unfortunately, this isn't an urban legend -- it may very well be true. Recent studies have shown higher rates of cancer in people who work in airplanes. Because of these findings, the European Union has decided to start requiring all crewmembers who work on E.U.-based airlines to go through radiation training. Great, but what about us, the passengers? Well, we talked with Dr. Robert Barish to find out a bit more. He's a radiation safety expert and author of The Invisible Passenger: Radiation Risks for People Who Fly.

There's something more immediate that you might want to think about before taking a flight -- catching a cold or the flu. You're packed in to a small space with hundreds other people; you're bound to catch something, right? Well, government studies say no, that the likelihood of catching a cold in a plane is about the same as catching one in a shopping mall. Rudy talked to travel doctor Terri Rock in Santa Monica to see what she thought of this.

Savvy Resources for Plane Health:

  • We talked with Dr. Robert Barish about in-flight radiation. You can call his toll-free number to find out when the next sun-flare will take place, but there is a $3 dollar fee to obtain the information. The number is 1-877-SUN-FLARE.

    Dr. Barish's book is called The Invisible Passenger: Radiation Risks for People Who Fly. It is available from its publisher, Advanced Medical Publishing of Madison, WI. They can be found at ADVMEDPUB.COM.

  • The Lancet medical journal has recently published reports finding that airline employees and frequent flyers are at higher risk for cancer because of solar radiation.

  • We mentioned that the European Union is now requiring EU-based airline employees to be educated about solar radiation. You can go to Great Britain's National Radiological Protection Board to find out more.

  • For answers to general questions about healthy traveling, try Travel Health Online. The site is up-to-date with health advisories from the State Department, travel medicine providers and tips to make your traveling experience an enjoyable one.

  • The Aviation Medicine site is a wealth of information -- everything from what you should do when flying with a child to the reasons for fatigue during a flight.


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