Working as a flight crewmember can put a pregnancy at risk, particularly during the first trimester, notes the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH points to three hazards that could imperil a pregnancy—circadian rhythm disruption (jet lag) or shiftwork, physical job demands, and cosmic ionizing radiation.
While pregnant workers in many occupations do shiftwork and heavy lifting, exposure to high levels of cosmic ionizing radiation is probably an occupational hazard that is unique to flight crews. The problem for pregnant flight attendants is that it cannot be avoided while flying.
What Is It?
Cosmic ionizing radiation comes from outer space with a very small amount reaching the earth. At flight altitudes, passengers and crewmembers are exposed to higher levels on every flight. The World Health Organization says that ionizing radiation causes cancer as well as reproductive problems, but NIOSH believes the issue warrants additional study.