Radiation is ever present. Our planet is awash with radiation of all sorts, from harmless radio waves to more dangerous ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays. We are able to see some of this radiation (sunlight) that falls in the narrow visible spectrum from red to violet, but the radiation of environmental concern is invisible.

Everyone is exposed to a certain level of natural background radiation. For example, different locations around the country are prone to higher levels of radon gas, which can seep into buildings from underground and significantly increase the dose that occupants are exposed to.

What are the effects of radiation?

The risk to health associated with radiation depends a lot on the dose received. At the low doses that most of us might expect to encounter, the risk is very low. The very nature of radiation means, though, that there are very few occasions when the risk level can be said to be zero.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) set values of maximum exposure to radiation. The largest dose limit is 1mSv (milli-Sievert) plus the natural background, which can be 4.1mSv.

Larger doses of radiation (greater than 1,500 mSv) would result in serious health effects and death, but only nuclear war or a major accident at a UK nuclear facility would expose Irish people to such doses.

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