Following a historic ruling in Korea, according to which the death of a flight attendant from cancer amounts to an occupational accident, South Korean airline Korean Air announced today that it “strictly adheres” to rules regarding the cosmic radiation exposure of its flight personnel.
According to the ruling by the Korean Workers’ Compensation and Social Protection Agency, issued last month and provided to AFP today, the cancer death of a flight attendant who had traveled for the national carrier for 25 years was due to his exposure to the secular radiation.
The flying carer, referred to only by his last name, Song, spent almost 1,022 hours on an aircraft each year, with almost half of the flights covering long-haul routes to the Americas and Europe.
These routes expose crews to more cosmic radiation, as they involve flying over the North Pole where radiation is higher due to the Earth’s magnetic field.
It is the first time an official South Korean agency has acknowledged the link between cosmic radiation and cancer for flight personnel in a work-related death.
A significant number of crew members have been diagnosed with blood and breast cancers, and many are on sick leave, said Kim Seong-hyun, a lawyer for the Song family.
The company’s announcement
Korean Air declined to comment on the public agency’s decision, denying it did anything wrong.
“Korean Air strictly adheres to personal data, and staff members can verify their cumulative amount of exposure to cosmic radiation, which is updated every month,” the company said in a statement to AFP.
The company limits radiation exposure “to below 6 mSv per month,” it said, which is “much more stringent than the legal maximum radiation exposure rule, which can be as high as 50 mSv per year.”
But the agency estimated that it was likely the worker was exposed to “more than 100 mSv of cumulative radiation” and that the measurement method used by Korean Air should have been able to minimize the actual amount of radiation.
South Korea in June amended a law capping the number of international flights crew members can take in order to minimize their exposure to cosmic radiation, Yonhap news agency reported at the time.