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||%|
Gamma rays from radioactive materials in the earth
Naturally occurring potassium 40 in food
|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%|
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.
2021 results show that food remains safe and that the levels of radioactivity measured in Northern Ireland are very low.