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ARPANSA conducts first comprehensive study into cosmic radiation exposure

21 April 2021

Every day, humans are exposed to radiation. From natural radiation sources such as minerals in the ground to artificial sources such as receiving an X-ray for medical purposes, we receive doses of radiation from a variety of sources.

Contributing to our everyday exposure is radiation from the continuous interaction of particles from the sun and space with Earth and its atmosphere – known as galactic cosmic radiation (GCR). 

Director of ARPANSA’s Assessment and Advice section, Dr Rick Tinker, said GCR contributes to approximately 25% of the natural radiation dose that is present in the Australian public.

‘While the Earth’s atmosphere and geomagnetic field provide sufficient shielding, meaning our exposure at ground level is not of particular concern from a radiation protection perspective, exposure to GCR does increase with altitude,’ said Dr Tinker.

To ensure the safety of the Australian public, ARPANSA estimated the annual GCR doses to the public at ground levels and at altitudes of commercial domestic and international flights.

It was found that exposure to GCR received by occasional flyers as well as the majority of frequent flyers is considered to be sufficiently low, and there is no need to introduce any additional protection measures. 

For frequent flyers who have exposures comparable to aircrew, their exposure should be managed as an occupational exposure and on a case-by-case basis.

To be considered a flyer whose exposure is comparable to aircrew, you would need to fly the equivalent of 42 return trips from Australia to London in a year, so it is unlikely for someone to fall into this category,’ said Dr Tinker.

To read the full study, visit https://academic.oup.com/rpd/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/rpd/ncab023/6158060

This study provides valuable insight into understanding cosmic radiation exposure to the Australian public and in particular critical population groups that are frequent flyers.