The planes are usually at an altitude of about 10,000 meters. Solar radiation in this area is significantly higher than on the ground. A study by the American Medical Association in 2014 found that high-altitude radiation posed a health risk to pilots and frequent flyers.
For plastic windows, eg polycarbonate, filter most of the radiation in aircraft, while glass windows allow the passage of UV-A rays. Ultraviolet light can be divided into three areas: long-wave UV-A, short-wave UV-B and ultra-short-wave UV-C, which are already filtered in the upper layers of the UV light. atmosphere and rarely reach the surface of the Earth.
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The study found that glass or plastic aircraft windows can protect against UV-B rays, while long-wave UV-A rays may contain 0.41 to 53% glass . A test showed that the radiation, the pilot and passengers at the window at an altitude of 9000 meters are exposed for one hour, in about 20 minutes on the corresponding tanning bed. The measurements took place in California and Las Vegas in the spring. Radiation can be amplified when flying through a snowy landscape or white clouds, as the radiation is reflected on clear surfaces and amplified.
Pilots have an increased risk of skin cancer
"Pilots who are often exposed to radiation have an increased risk of skin cancer," confirms Munich dermatologist Dr. med. Timm Golüke on TRAVELBOOK's request. "They run the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, called white skin cancer, which, despite its name, has the same characteristics as black skin cancer with dark pigmentation on the skin," he says. A 1990 study shows that UV-A rays can damage DNA and cause skin cancer.
Golüke would therefore advise pilots and flight attendants to always apply sunscreen, but this also applies to passengers sitting in the aircraft at the window. The view is beautiful, but UV-A rays can hit the skin through a window and cause damage.
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"For me, sunscreen in the cockpit has never been an important topic," said the professional driver Patrick Biedenkapp. He blogs and blogs about his work, his travels and his nutrition. "I did not know that the cockpit windows did not completely filter UV-A / B radiation," he admits, "but there are probably serious differences between the different manufacturers." Until now, he has never applied sunscreen in flight. "Of course, I use aviator sunglasses to protect myself from the blinding light and I wear only long-sleeved shirts because my hands and arms are exposed to the sun during work," says Patrick.
Now, sunscreen is always there when we fly. First of all, a test with a special camera showed the pilot the resulting damage: "In particular, my forehead, which is usually exposed to the sun in the cockpit, has black spots, which become visible in the elderly in the form of age spots, pigmentation or even cancer ".
It is amazing that this threat of ultraviolet radiation in the training of pilots is obviously not a problem. "The altitude radiation is treated in class, but how to protect yourself from UV radiation in the cockpit," says pilot Patrick. Even among colleagues, sunscreens are not discussed.
In case of doubt always cream
Of course, not all flights are dangerous for the skin at the moment, and pilots are more exposed to radiation than the average traveler. However, those who frequently travel short distances or prefer to travel long distances to the airplane window must wear sunscreen throughout the duration of the flight.
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The damage to the skin depends on how long the skin is exposed to radiation and how deep the rays penetrate the skin. UV-A rays can penetrate the second layer of the skin, the dermis, and attack, for example, collagen stores in the skin, resulting in premature aging of the skin and explains, among other things, that the rays sun causes wrinkles.
The American Medical Association study suggests continuing studies of radiation over clouds and the fact that aircraft windows should provide better protection against UV rays. Pilots, flight attendants and frequent flyers should therefore rely on sunscreens and regular check-ups with the dermatologist.