Following a historic ruling that the death of a flight attendant from cancer amounts to an occupational accident, South Korean airline Korean Air announced today that it is “strictly adhering” 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 been traveling for the national carrier for 25 years was due to his exposure to 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 the crews to more cosmic radiation as they involve a flyby over the North Pole where radiation is higher due to the Earth’s magnetic field.
In April 2021, Song was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer and died a month later.
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 monthly,” the company announced in a statement sent to AFP.
The company limits exposure to radiation “below 6 mSv per month”, reported, which “is much stricter than the statutory maximum radiation exposure rule, which can reach up to 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.
It is the first time an official South Korean body has acknowledged the link between cosmic radiation and cancer for flight personnel in a work-related death.
A a significant number of crew members have been diagnosed with blood and breast cancers, and many are on sick leaveKim Seong-hyun, a lawyer for the Song family, pointed out.
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.