Answer to Question #10593 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Environmental and Background Radiation — Airplanes

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Q

What type of radiation would fabric with silver in it protect one from? Would it help in an airplane?

A

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

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 6 March 2013. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.