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Mount Everest Climbers, Guides Exposed to Cosmic Radiation Aprl 2, 2014
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This climber standing in the thin air atop the world's highest mountain was probably unaware that he was being exposed to excessive levels of radiation.
Climbers venturing to the summit of Mount Everest and back are exposed to a dose of cosmic radiation five times higher than that received by British nuclear power plant workers each year, according to new research.

In a report published by the Society for Radiological Protection, measurements gathered by mountaineer Bob Kerr indicate the dose received from an Everest ascent brings a 1-in-10,000 risk of developing a fatal cancer later in life.

The exposure is due to cosmic rays not being filtered out by the thin atmosphere at the highest elevations of the mountain.

“If someone received this level of dose at ground level, and if it was not due to cosmic radiation, then under the UK's Ionizing Radiations Regulations, this would be classed as a ‘significant dose’ and would be at the annual public dose limit," said Kerr.

But since Sherpa guides climb Everest many times during their lives, their exposure is likely to be far greater.

Kerr concludes that most guides and climbers are likely to be unaware of the radiation exposure they receive on the world’s highest mountain.

Photo: Young Hoon Oh