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KLM To Ground Pregnant Stewardesses Because Of Radiation Fears

June 9, 1990

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ The national airline KLM will begin grounding pregnant stewardesses this fall because of a U.S. report saying crews may be exposed to harmful levels of radiation, a company spokesman said Friday.

The study by the U.S. Transportation Department, released in February, estimates the lifetime cancer risk due to cosmic radiation for airline crew members who fly 960 hours annually would be from five to 61 deaths for every 100,000 individuals in 20 years of flying.

It also notes some risk to frequent fliers and to the fetuses of pregnant women during the first trimester of pregnancy.

″We were planning on making some changes anyway, but the reports of possible dangers related to higher radiation levels made us act faster,″ KLM spokesman Hugo Baas said.

Scientists and U.S. officials caution that the risk data was not based on any study of actual cancer cases but on mathematical models projecting the effects of low-level radiation from the sun and stars.

Folkert Draaisma, a radio-biology expert at the National Scientific Research center in Rijswijk, said radiation is most dangerous between the 8th and 15th weeks of pregnancy, when fetal brains are formed.

″I estimate that a stewardess who flies during her entire pregnancy will reach the unacceptable level,″ which he indicated was 40 percent above the normal dose of cosmic radiation that everyone routinely receives.

According to the new airline regulation, once a stewardess reports her pregnancy, she must be given the option of an alternative job on the ground or an extended paid pregnancy leave, union leader Joop Kostermans said.

Kosterman heads the Dutch Association of Cabin Personnel, which represents 98 percent of KLM’s 4,100 flight attendants.