Cosmic radiation caused fatal cancer in Korean Air cabin crew

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The death of a flight attendant Korean Air following cancer was ruled by a South Korean labor jury to be directly linked to radiation exposure resulting from his work on board the planes.

Korean Service compensation of the work accident and Welfare Department determined that the death of a 53-year-old female flight attendant was caused by cosmic radiation while flying with Korean Air. The flight attendant, identified as Song by English Chosun, was diagnosed with stomach cancer stage 4 in April 2021. She died a month later.

Song worked as flight attendant from 1995 to 2021. During those 25 years, she spent nearly 1,022 hours on an airplane each year. About half of Song’s flight hours were flown on long-haul routes to North America and Europe, which cross the Arctic, where X-ray exposure is higher than on other routes. Such routes expose flight crews to more cosmic radiation because they involve flying over the North Pole, where this radiation is higher due to the earth’s magnetic field. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recognized the concentration of radioactivity in the Arctic region.

Korean Air declined to comment on the committee’s historic decision, but on November 7 denied any wrongdoing. “Korean Air strictly manages individual data and crew members can check their cumulative exposure to cosmic radiation, which is updated on a monthly basis,” the company said in a statement to AFP. The company limits radiation exposure to “less than 6 mSv per year,” she indicated, which is “much stricter than the maximum legal standard for radiation exposure of up to 50 mSv per year.” But the committee rejected the airline’s request, saying it was possible the plaintiffs had been exposed to “more than 100 mSv of accumulated radiation” and that the measurement method deployed by Korean Air could have minimized the actual amount of radiation.

This is the first time that an official union body in South Korea has recognized the correlation between cosmic radiation and cancer in the sailboat commercial employees (PNC) like an industrial death. South Korea amended a law in June capping the number of international flights allowed for cabin crew members to minimize their exposure to cosmic radiation, Yonhap news agency reported.

A study of more than 5,000 U.S.-based flight attendants published in Environmental Health in 2018 found that flight crews had rate of certain cancers superiors to the average.

John Walker Avatar