Potential benefit of retrospective use of neutron monitors in improving ionising radiation exposure assessment on international flights: issues raised by neutron passive dosimeter measurements and EPCARD simulations during sudden changes in solar activity
Since air transport became more accessible, more and more people have been exposed to ionising radiation of cosmic origin. Measuring the neutron dose equivalent is a good approximation of total ambient dose equivalent, as neutrons carry about 50 % of the dose at flight altitudes. The aim of our study was to compare our measurements of the neutron component of secondary cosmic radiation dose, taken with passive dosimeters, with the data obtained from a simulation generated by EPCARD software, which is common in assessing flight crew exposure to ionising radiation. We observed deviations (both above and below) from the expected proportion of the neutron component (between 40 and 80 %), which pointed to certain issues with actual passive dosimeter measurement and the EPCARD simulation. The main limitation of the dosimeter are large uncertainties in high energy neutron response, which may result in underestimation of neutron dose equivalent. The main drawback of the software simulation is monthly averaging of solar potential in calculations, which can neglect sporadic high energy events. Since airlines worldwide almost exclusively use software (due to costs and convenience) to estimate the dose received by their crew, it is advisable to retrospectively recalculate the dose taking into account neutron monitor readings when solar activity changes.