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Numerous industries carry a risk for radiation exposure

Over the past few decades, many advancements have been made in regulations and safety measures to prevent people from being exposed to radiation during the course of their jobs. However, some Illinois workers are still routinely exposed to radiation, which may cause some types of cancer. The amount of exposure is generally very small, and the risk is rare, but the risk nevertheless exists. There are some professions that carry a higher risk of radiation exposure than others.

The amount of workplace radiation exposure allowable by law is strictly enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Most Americans are naturally exposed to less than one REM dose each year. REM stands for a radiation measurement unit called Roentgen Equivalent Man. OSHA rules state that a worker's whole body radiation exposure should not exceed three REM during any calendar quarter.

The most common industries in which radiation exposure may be a risk, according to Everyday Health, include the following:

  • Airplane pilots - They have a particular risk for melanoma (skin cancer), being exposed to harmful UV rays through the cockpit.
  • Astronauts - NASA has instituted a cap of 50 REM exposure from cosmic radiation in a year's period for those who spend time on space stations.
  • Flight attendants - They may have an increased risk of melanoma and breast cancer from high-altitude radiation.
  • Radiology technicians - Safety measures have greatly improved since 1950, but risks include thyroid, blood, breast and skin cancers.
  • Airline baggage screeners - Insufficient safety training may contribute to many screeners testing for more than the maximum radiation dose allowed.

Other industries with an elevated radiation risk include military workers who work at nuclear weapons facilities, military nuclear power plants or long-range navigation stations; mine workers who are exposed to radiation from uranium and radon; and nuclear power plant employees. However, those who work at nuclear plants are less at risk of long-term radiation exposure than many people might think. In extremely rare circumstances, they may be exposed to immediate health emergencies after a power plant accident.

The long-term effects of radiation exposure may be devastating. Those who suffer from an occupational disease due to radiation may be eligible for workers' compensation.

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