Radiation in the environment

Radiation from both natural and artificial sources is in the environment – in the air we breathe, the food and drink we consume, and even in our own bodies. We are all exposed to a level of radiation every day.

Sources of radiation

On average, people in Northern Ireland receive 2,500 microsieverts (the unit of measurement for radiation dose) of radiation a year from all sources.

Natural radiation sources  
Radon 51%

Gamma rays from radioactive materials in the earth

14%

Naturally occurring potassium 40 in our food

12%

Cosmic radiation

10%
Artificial radiation sources  
X-rays / radioactive material used to diagnose disease 12%
Radioactive discharges, occupational exposure, fallout from historical nuclear testing and nuclear accidents, and miscellaneous 1%

Monitoring radiation

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) monitors radiation in the environment. Samples of seaweed, sediment, fish and shellfish are collected quarterly and analysed.

NIEA also monitors the gamma dose rate in air over beaches, as well as radiation in air and rainwater. 

NIEA’s monitoring results are  published in Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) reports. RIFE reports contain information from NIEA, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. 

20186 results show that food remains safe and that the levels of  radioactivity measured in Northern Ireland are very low.

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