Almost all of radiation found in Irish people from natural sources - EPA

Almost 60 per cent of dose is due to the radioactive gas Radon in indoor air

More than 99 per cent of radiation dose comes from natural sources, says EPA

More than 99 per cent of the average radiation dose comes from natural sources of radiation, and medical exposures such as X-rays and CT scans, a new report has found.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) published research on the average radiation doses received by the Irish population on Tuesday.

The Ionising Radiation – National Does Report assessed the radiation exposure over the last five years received from the air we breathe, medical exposures, our diet, and exposures to radiation in our environment.

The findings are an update of a 2014 assessment, and the current assessment found that the average dose remains similar to that found a decade ago.

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The assessment found that almost 60 per cent of the dose is due to the radioactive gas Radon in indoor air, with more than 8 per cent coming from exposure to another radioactive gas, Thoron.

Some 9 per cent comes from cosmic radiation, of which 2 per cent is due to exposure received if flying, the report said.

Just 7 per cent comes from our food and drinking water, while 6 per cent comes from radiation from the ground as gamma radiation, it said.

People in Ireland receive a slightly higher average radiation dose than the European average, mainly due to radon exposure in the home and in the workplace.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, contributes almost 60 per cent of the annual dose. This is “of concern”, the EPA said, as radon is a big cause of lung cancer.

Radioactivity from artificial sources, such as discharges from nuclear facilities abroad, fallout from historic nuclear weapons testing and past nuclear accidents make up less than 1 per cent of overall exposure, the research found.

Dr Micheal Lehane, EPA director said if there is a high radon level in a person’s home, it’s “exposing you and your family to unnecessary radiation”.

“The good news is that radon is easy to test for and solutions are available to reduce high levels where necessary,” he said.

When building a house it was “critical to seal the base of the building to prevent radon from getting into your house in the first place”.

“For existing houses, we urge people to test for radon, and remediate if necessary, as this is the only way of protecting you and your family from this cancer-causing gas”.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times