Radiation has been a hot topic for a long time now. On one hand, it’s a natural byproduct of the sun and other radioactive elements found in Mother Nature. On the other hand, modern innovations have placed certain workers in a position where they experience more than their fair share of radiation exposure.
The worst cases are those that include exposure to ionizing radiation – where the radiation is strong enough to bump an electron off its orbit, leading to instability and cellular decline. High exposure to radiation is always dangerous, but research shows that chronic, or long-term, exposure to low levels of radiation can be equally harmful in terms of toxicity and the development of cancer and other medical conditions.
The reality is that some of the most radioactive careers – those that put you at greater risk for radiation exposure – may surprise you. This is because those who work in jobs where radiation is a constant – like those who work in nuclear plants – are (hopefully) well educated regarding the risks, and employers use protective clothing and shields to minimize exposure.
5 Careers with Heavy Radiation Exposure
Thus, danger can lurk where you are less likely to suspect it if the right amount of information and protection aren’t in place.
- Airline Pilots. Forget about flying the friendly skies, you have bigger fish to fry – like flying the radioactive skies. Experts became alarmed when they realized that commercial airline pilots and certain crew members seemed to have larger-than-normal rates of melanoma, a harmful skin cancer. Turned out that even with UV blocking windshield protection, one hour in the cockpit during daylight hours was the equivalent of 20-minutes in a tanning bed. Not good. Thus, cockpits designed for higher radiation protection are being implemented industry-wide.
- Astronauts. Astronauts know they’ll be exposed to higher levels of radiation, which increase significantly outside of the earth’s atmosphere. Their space ships, suits and shielding are designed to provide top-level protection. Even so, consider this: OSHA’s standards state that radiation exposure to a single body, over the course of a calendar year, should never exceed 3 Roentgen Equivalent Man (REM).NASA sets their annual REM cap for astronauts at about 50 REM. We guess some job perks are considered worth the risk…
- Radiology technicians. This one makes sense right? The good news is that radiologist technicians of today are at significantly less risk than their predecessors. Prior to the 1950s, radiologist techs were at seriously high risk for specific cancers, including thyroid, breast and blood cancers. Now, education and innovative protection have reduced those risks considerably. Even so, the REM cap for radiology techs is 5, which is about 10-times higher than the rest of us would ever be exposed to each year. Extra protective clothing may be in order if you’re considering a career in this field.
- Baggage Screeners. You may be annoyed at all the extra security measures put in place for airline travel, but that’s nothing compared to what TSA baggage screeners are exposed to each day. In addition to cranky clients, these dedicated and typically underpaid professionals are exposed to constant radiation on a daily basis, both directly and in the form of scatter radiation. Unfortunately, the safety screening technology and these types of jobs are relatively new, so only time will tell regarding the effectiveness of current safety measures. TSA employees should take it upon themselves to learn as much as they can about the equipment they work with and the radiation levels they’re exposed to. Currently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health feels airline baggage scanners are exposed to unnecessarily high levels of radiation and have determined the employees aren’t getting enough safety training.
- Mine workers. When you work underground, much of what you do goes completely unnoticed and unappreciated by the general public. The reality is that without hardworking miners, life in the 21st century would look very different. From the energy we consume for electricity and gadgets to the metals that comprise our daily utensils and furnishings, mine workers make it all possible. Unfortunately, those who work in tin, iron and uranium mines are exposed to high levels of radiation as the result of decaying uranium and radon found deep within the earth. The good news is that increased awareness and worker’s rights have led to exposure levels that are 1,000 times less than they used to be. That’s a scary statistic when you think that miners are still exposed to levels much higher than the rest of us.
Do you work in an industry known for its regular exposure to radiation? Don’t take it lightly. Make sure your company has a Radiation Safety Officer and an effective, multi-tiered safety program at work for your best interests.
Contact Lancs Industries to learn more about radiation shielding and other protective products designed to keep your body safe from dangerous radioactive materials and/or environments.
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