Posts

Harvard Researchers Taking on FA Exposure to Radiation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standards and regulations to protect worker health. Historically, flight attendants had been excluded from OSHA’s protection.  In 2014, OSHA started a monitoring program that focuses on flight attendants’ exposure to noise, hazard communication and bloodborne pathogens (1), but not ionizing radiation. However, according to the National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP), flight attendants are exposed to the largest effective dose among all US radiation workers due to cosmic ionizing radiation at altitude (2). Chronic exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation increases the chance of developing cancer over time.

Our recent study on flight attendant health found that flight attendants have a greater prevalence of cancer when compared to the general public (3), consistent with previous studies among U.S. and European flight attendants. The study used an analytical technique that calculated age-weighted standardized prevalence ratios (SPRs), and found an SPR of 2.15 for cancer at all sites.  This shows that there is over 2 times the prevalence of cancer among flight attendants compared to the general public, which is important to know because ionizing radiation could play a role in the increased cancer cases seen among flight attendants. Specific cancers that have been linked to flight attendant work include breast cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.  While studies have been mixed regarding a relationship between melanoma and ionizing radiation, this form of radiation is considered a risk factor for breast and non-melanoma skin cancers.

Another risk factor for cancer experienced by flight attendants is Circadian rhythm disruption due to irregular and disrupted sleep patterns.  Second hand smoke exposure has the possibility of increasing cancer cases among flight attendants as well, but due to a regulation in 1998 that banned smoking on aircrafts, this exposure has been eliminated.

Works Cited

  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Applicability of certain OSHA standards to cabin crew members on Aircraft in Operation (2014). Accessed 27 March 2018.
  2. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Ionizing radiation exposure of the population of the United States. Report No. 160. In: Recommendations of the National Council on radiation protection and measurements (NCRP). Bethesda, MD: National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements; 2009. Accessed 27 March 2018.
  3. Estimating the health consequences of flight attendant work: comparing flight attendant health to the general population in a cross-sectional study

 

 

 

Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study

Seeking: Flight Attendants willing to participate in a vitamin D screening study

Dr. Mardi Crane-Godreau is seeking volunteers of former and current flight attendants to participate in respiratory and vitamin D screening studies.

  • Screenings available in the Boston and NYC area.
  • We need volunteers who suspect, or have been diagnosed with respiratory disease as well as healthy volunteers.
  • There are no age limits.
  • If you flew for at least 5 years prior to 1992, and would be willing to participate in this important study, please email: Margaret.A.Crane@Dartmouth.EDU or call (603) 653-9970 and leave a message with your name, email address and phone number.

Thank you in advance for your contribution of time and energy in support of improving human health world wide.

Mardi Crane-Godreau, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept of Microbiology and Immunology
Geisel School of Medicine
1 Medical Center Drive
HB 7936
Lebanon, NH 03756
603-653-9970
Norris Cotton Cancer Center Investigator
Somatic Experiencing Trauma Inst. Board

Flying the smoky skies: secondhand smoke exposure of flight attendants

J. Repace.
Tobacco Control 2004;13;i8-i19

Download the publication: FA smoking lit

Flight attendants reported suffering greatly from SHS pollution on aircraft. Both government and airline sponsored studies concluded that SHS created an air pollution problem in aircraft cabins, while tobacco industry sponsored studies yielding similar data concluded that ventilation controlled SHS, and that SHS pollution levels were low. Between the time that non-smoking sections were established on US carriers in 1973, and the two hour US smoking ban in 1988, commercial aircraft ventilation rates had declined three times as fast as smoking prevalence. The aircraft cabin provided the least volume and lowest ventilation rate per smoker of any social venue, including stand up bars and smoking lounges, and afforded an abnormal respiratory environment. Personal monitors showed little difference in SHS exposures between flight attendants assigned to smoking sections and those assigned to non-smoking sections of aircraft cabins.

Conclusions: In-flight air quality measurements in ,250 aircraft, generalised by models, indicate that when smoking was permitted aloft, 95% of the harmful respirable suspended particle (RSP) air pollution in the smoking sections and 85% of that in the non-smoking sections of aircraft cabins was caused by SHS. Typical levels of SHS-RSP on aircraft violated current (PM2.5) federal air quality standards ,threefold for flight attendants, and exceeded SHS irritation thresholds by 10 to 100 times. From cotinine dosimetry, SHS exposure of typical flight attendants in aircraft cabins is estimated to have been .6-fold that of the average US worker and ,14-fold that of the average person. Thus, ventilation systems massively failed to control SHS air pollution in aircraft cabins. These results have implications for studies of the past and future health of flight attendants.

Washington Dulles – Oct. 22-24

 

Come and visit us in Washington, Dulles Airport from October 22-24. We will be located in the United terminal.

Pulmonary Function Abnormalities in Never Smoking Flight Attendants Exposed to Secondhand Tobacco Smoke in the Aircraft Cabin

Mehrdad Arjomandi, MD 1,3,4, Thaddeus Haight, MA 5, Rita Redberg, MD 1,3, and Warren M Gold, MD 1,2,3
1 UCSF FAMRI Center of Excellence, University of California, San Francisco
2 Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco
3 Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
4 San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of California Berkeley, California
5 School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, California

Download the publication: Pulmonary Function Abnormalities In Never Smoking Flight Attendants

Objective: To determine whether the flight attendants who were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS) in the aircraft cabin have abnormal pulmonary function.
Methods: We administered questionnaires and performed pulmonary function testing in 61 neversmoking female flight attendants who worked in active air crews before the smoking ban on commercial aircraft (pre-ban).
Results: While the pre-ban flight attendants had normal FVC, FEV1, and FEV1/FVC ratio, they had significantly decreased flow at mid- and low-lung volumes, curvilinear flow-volume curves, and evidence of air trapping. Furthermore, the flight attendants had significantly decreased diffusing capacity (77.5±11.2 %predicted normal) with 51% having a diffusing capacity below their 95% normal prediction limit.
Conclusions: This cohort of healthy never-smoking flight attendants who were exposed to SHS in the aircraft cabin showed pulmonary function abnormalities suggestive of airway obstruction and impaired diffusion.