In May, the European Union began regulating its aviation industry to protect flight crews from cosmic radiation-the higher we fly above the earth's surface, the higher the exposure. The EU directive came just in time for what is considered a peak phase in solar flare activity (storms on the sun's surface), which can increase cosmic radiation one hundredfold.
Since research indicates that ionizing radiation from the sun can cause birth defects, the new law requires airlines to notify employees of risks and limit the exposure of pregnant crew members. British Airways now grounds employees once they declare pregnancy.
In the U.S., meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has documented cosmic radiation risks since 1990, but doesn't require airlines to inform their crews or passengers. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, flight crew members receive higher radiation doses than 95 percent of other "exposed" workers, including most nuclear power plant technicians. Many, however, are unaware of the risks.
Robert Barish, a medical physicist and author of The Invisible Passenger: Radiation Risks for People Who Fly, says, "It makes no sense that those who are in the highest exposed worker group in the U.S. know absolutely nothing about it."
"We are way behind in the U.S.," agrees Candace Kolander, a coordinator at the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO. "As a flight attendant, I should be able to make an informed decision." According to Barish "one long flight can equal one to two chest x-rays." And one study established a link between flight crews and increased instances of breast cancer. But more research needs to be done, especially on links between in-flight radiation and female reproductive disorders. One such study, involving thousands of women flight attendants, is underway at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and should be finished in 2003.
Barish says that frequent fliers should monitor their exposure, and pregnant women should know that flying during a solar flare could increase the risk of birth defects or cause a miscarriage.
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .