Other Environmental Concerns

As well as the usual concerns about air and water pollution, many people are also concerned about topics such as noise or radiation that fall under the general heading of environment.


Radiation

Living on this planet exposes us to constant radiation doses from the earth and from the sun. We can do little to protect ourselves from this radiation apart from insulating our homes against radioactive radon gas.  


In the course of a lifetime most of us are also exposed to radiation from X-ray equipment in hospitals. The third general source of radiation, nuclear missile testing and nuclear power station accidents and emissions, tend to get most publicity and to be of most concern.


When we look at the figures published by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, however, we see that natural radiation accounts for 85.9 % of the radiation dose we receive, 13.7% comes from medical devices and only 0.4% comes from artificial sources .

Some 56.5% of the dose we receive comes from radon gas and so it is advisable to check the radon levels in our homes and work places, particularly if they were constructed prior to July 1998 when new radon prevention regulations were introduced. To get an estimate of the radiation you are exposed to in your area, visit the Radiation Calculator on the EPA website here.

Noise and Vibration

Noise at any time can be a nuisance and during the nighttime can keep people awake and damage their health. Most complaints are due to noisy neighbours, particularly from those living in apartment blocks, but occasionally construction and industrial noise can also cause problems.

While the law does not specifically mention an exact level or standard of noise that is illegal, you have a right to complain to your local authority. It has the power to investigate complaints about neighbourhood noise and also has specialist equipment that measures levels of sound.

Vibration problems mainly arise close to quarries, mines and tunnels where explosive devices are used to blast through the rock. Humans are very sensitive to vibrations and can detect very low levels. If not controlled properly excessive vibrations can damage property and so all significant sources of vibration in Ireland are restricted in the frequency and extent of any blasting operations through their planning permissions or through the licensing system operated by the EPA.

Genetically Modified Organisms

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is defined as an organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or natural recombination or by a combination of both (EPA, 2012). GMOs fall into two broad categories; those that are held inside containers (contained use) and those that are released into the environment (deliberate release). Both categories are controlled by legislation and the EPA is the body with responsibility for implementing it.

There are hundreds of contained GMO uses in Ireland, mostly in university research laboratories and biopharmaceutical factories. Deliberate GMO release is confined to research projects. For example, Teagasc was given permission by the EPA in 2012 to start a field-based research study of a GM potato variety that demonstrated durable resistance to late blight disease; a total of 5,274 plants were included in the field study. More information on GMOs can be found on the EPA website here.


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