Fears for airline passengers as an ‘urgent’ investigation is launched into the effects of cosmic rays from the sun on planes Air
Public Health England to access health risks of increased solar radiation
Air passengers could be vulnerable during major burst of ‘space weather’
Difficult to advise on exposure as no radiation monitors on planes
Airline passengers could be vulnerable to the effects of cosmic rays from the sun during a massive solar storm, a new report has found.
The Government has ordered Public Health England to conduct an ‘urgent’ investigation into the repercussions of increased radiation caused by a huge explosion of high energy particles from the surface of the sun.
This comes as a report into the UK’s Space Weather Preparedness outlines what needs to be done to cope with a major burst of ‘space weather.’
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The document produced by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) states: ‘The direct impact on public health from the increased radiation environment, which is most likely to affect the general public if they are travelling by air on trans-oceanic routes during the storm, is assessed to be small.
‘However, the work on this area being led by Public Health England needs to be completed urgently.
‘That will lead to a report that sets out recommendations for protecting public health from solar radiation.’
However, there are no radiation monitors on board most aircraft and it would not be possible to advise passengers and air crews exposure.
Data from satelites combined with that from ground level monitoring could be used to estimate the dose, but the report states this would take time to calculate.
‘Both the monitoring of ground level radiation events and radiation at flight altitude is being considered through the development of a Public Health England report to advice on measures for protecting public health from radiation hazards during an extreme space weather event.’
Adrian Melott, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, told the Telegraph that neutrons which don’t reach the ground do reach aircraft altitude.
‘Flight crews get a greater radiation dose from neutrons,’ he told the newspaper.
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