RPII Publishes Environmental Monitoring Report

Date released: May 14 2002

Radioactivity levels in Irish produced milk, milk products, baby foods, beef, lamb, poultry and vegetables remain very low and for the majority of samples, below detection limits, according to the report published today by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, Environmental Radioactivity Surveillance Programme 1999 - 2000. All of the drinking waters tested were found to comply with legal requirements and WHO guidelines for water quality from a radiological perspective.

The report on radioactivity in the Irish terrestrial environment covers the years 1999 and 2000. The report details the results of sampling and testing for radioactivity in air, drinking water and foodstuffs, as well as the continuous measurement of ambient external gamma dose rates around the country.

The report points out that artificial radioactivity is present in the Irish terrestrial environment as a result of deposition from nuclear weapons tests which were carried out in the 1950s and 1960s as well as the Chernobyl accident. Krypton-85, which arises mainly from reprocessing activities, is also detectable in air in Ireland.

A small increase in krypton-85 activity concentration in air was observed in both 1999 and 2000 and this continues a trend of increasing atmospheric concentrations that has been observed since measurements commenced in Ireland in 1993. While the radiological significance of krypton-85 is relatively low, it does provide a direct measure of the impact of the aerial discharges from reprocessing on Ireland. It is therefore important that its presence in the Irish environment continues to be evaluated.

No abnormally high external gamma dose rates were observed in either 1999 or 2000 at any of the 12 stations around the country that make continuous measurements.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Tony Colgan, Principal Scientific officer with the RPII, stated, "the data presented in the report provides reassurance that the levels of artificial radioactivity in the Irish terrestrial environment, including foodstuffs, are low and do not pose a significant risk to health."

The Institute also operates an extensive programme to monitor the levels of radioactivity in the Irish marine environment and the results of this programme are published separately. A report for the years 2000 and 2001 is expected later this year.

The Report is available on the RPII's website:

Environmental Radioactivity Surveillance Programme 1999 - 2000

Notes to Editor:

  • The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland continued to monitor levels of radioactivity in air, drinking water and foodstuffs in 1999 and 2000 and the results are presented in this report, the sixth in a series dealing with the terrestrial environment. Radioactivity is present in the terrestrial environment due to natural processes, the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, accidents such as the Chernobyl accident and the routine discharge of radionuclides from nuclear installations.
  • The Institute monitored airborne radioactivity at ten stations throughout the country. One site was equipped to detect the presence of krypton-85, a radionuclide released into the environment primarily as a result of the reprocessing of nuclear fuel at installations such as Sellafield in the UK and La Hague in France. Krypton-85 concentrations are measured twice monthly. Both in 1999 and 2000, levels of radionuclides in airborne particulates were low and consistent with measurements in previous years.
  • Public water supplies are sampled from each county at least every four years with supplies to certain major population centres sampled annually. Water supplies from eleven counties were sampled between 1999 and 2000 and all of the waters tested were found to be within legal requirements for water quality from a radiological point of view.