Radiation in your environment
What is environmental radiation?
Environmental radiation is the background radiation that we are exposed to every day of our lives. Most of the background radiation we are exposed to day-by-day is at a low level. However, the RPII constantly monitors radiation in the environment so as to assess the level of radiation to which the population is exposed.
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Where does environmental radiation come from?
Environmental radiation may come from a variety of sources both natural and man-made. The effects of natural and man-made radiation are the same. Natural sources have been present since the creation of the Earth and account for approximately 86 per cent of the average annual radiation dose to a person in Ireland. Man-made sources have only been in existence since the turn of the 20th century and account for approximately 14 percent of our annual radiation dose.
The largest natural source to which most people are exposed is radon, which accounts for approximately 56 per cent of the average annual radiation dose to a person in Ireland. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced from uranium that is present in varying amounts in all rocks and soils.
The largest man-made source is medical uses of radiation, which accounts for more than 13 percent of the average annual radiation dose to a person in Ireland. Other sources of man-made or artificial radiation in the environment come from the testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and discharges of radioactivity from hospitals and nuclear facilities. On average these sources account for less than 1 percent of the annual average dose to a person in Ireland.
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How does the RPII monitor environmental radiation?
The RPII's monitoring programme includes:
- measuring radioactivity in air and external gamma dose rate from a network of permanent monitoring stations located throughout the country
- sampling and laboratory analysis of a variety of food products and drinking water
- sampling and laboratory analysis of seawater, sediment, seaweed, fish and shellfish
This enables us to assess the levels of radioactivity in the environment and in the foodchain. Results of the monitoring can be seen in our latest report Radioactivity Monitoring of the Irish Environment. More recent monitoring data is also available and is updated on an on-going basis. Find out more from our section on Radiation Monitoring.
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