Answer to Question #10593 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
What type of radiation would fabric with silver in it protect one from? Would it help in an airplane?
As you may know, different materials exhibit different abilities to shield against different radiations. For example, to shield against low-energy electromagnetic radiation typically found in medical and diagnostic procedures (that is, x rays), materials with high atomic numbers (called “high-Z materials”) like lead are commonly used. Therefore, a fabric with some type of silver in it might provide some shielding effectiveness against x rays and other low-energy electromagnetic radiation. The exact level of protection would depend on the type and energy of the radiation, the amount (mass) of silver, and the constituents and mass of the fabric.
For shielding against the radiation field in airplanes, I doubt that silver-containing fabric would provide much of a radiation shield, and it might actually make the exposure worse. The radiation environment in an airplane is dominated by energetic neutrons that will have nuclear collisions in the silver resulting in secondary radiations that are biologically significant. Additional information about radiation exposure in airplanes can be found at http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/commercialflights.html.
Linnea Wahl, CHP