Trace levels of radiation from Japan continue to be detected in the air

Date released: Apr 01 2011

No health implications for Ireland.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is continuing to detect trace levels of radioactivity in the air from the Fukushima accident in Japan. The levels measured so far are barely detectable and pose no health risk.

Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII said: “Our recent measurements show that the levels of radioactivity originating from Japan are fluctuating but remain so small they can be described as trace levels. The variation in levels is as expected because of the pattern of release of radioactivity from Fukushima and changing weather conditions. The most recent measurement shows a higher level than earlier samples. However, the levels detected do not have any health implications.”

“The releases of radiation to the atmosphere from Fukushima, as a result of the explosions and fires during the week after the accident, appear to have ceased. If this situation continues we expect to see a decline over time in the average levels of radioactivity detected in Ireland.”

Samples of air that showed traces of radioactivity from Japan were collected over 24-hour periods on the 26/27, 27/28 and a 48-hour period during 28/30 March. Following detailed laboratory analysis, the level of radio-iodine (I-131) in each sample was 20, 103 and 550 micro-becquerels per cubic metre, respectively. Other radionuclides, consistent with the releases from Fukushima, were also identified in the latter two samples. These additional radionuclides are caesium-134 and caesium-137. The levels of these radionuclides are in the order of a few tens of micro-becquerels and are of no health concern.

In addition to air sampling, the RPII routinely monitors rainwater and foodstuffs. The frequency of some measurements has been increased in response to the current situation but no elevated levels of radioactivity other than those reported here have been detected. 

“If a person was to breathe air with the levels of radioactivity detected in Ireland for a period of whole year they would receive a radiation dose of less than 0.01 micro-sieverts. For comparison, the radiation dose reported is equivalent to around 1/400,000 of the dose received by each person in Ireland each year from natural and man-made sources of radiation.” Dr McGarry concluded.

Ends   

For further information:

Murray Consultants 01 498 0346

Aoibheann O’Sullivan 087 629 14 53

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland  269 7766

David Dawson 206 6913&

Notes for editors:

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII)

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is the national organisation with regulatory, monitoring and advisory responsibilities in matters relating to ionising radiation. In particular, the RPII concerns itself with hazards to health associated with ionising radiation and with radioactive contamination in the environment. The RPII is an independent public body under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and was established in 1992 under the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. The RPII’s role is to ensure that Irish people and the environment are adequately protected from the harmful effects of ionising radiation. We do this by providing advice to the public and the Government, by monitoring people’s exposure to radiation, by regulating and licensing those who use radiation, by providing technical support to Ireland’s plan to deal with radiation emergencies (NEPNA) and by cooperating with similar bodies internationally.

Iodine tablets

As of the 17th March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is cautioning people concerned about the radiation issues in Japan against self-medicating with potassium iodide or taking products containing iodine. More information available here: http://www.who.int/en/

RPII’s National Monitoring Network 

The RPII with support from Met Éireann, local authorities and the Defence Forces operates a national network of permanent radiation-monitoring stations which are operational around the clock. These stations include air samplers and gamma dose rate monitors. As part of the network, the RPII also operate a high volume air sampler with the support of UCD School of Physics. Data from the gamma monitors is continuously fed back to a central computer at RPII and displayed on the website.

This network would provide the first measurements in the event of a radioactive 'cloud' reaching Ireland. If elevated radiation levels are detected, an alarm system is automatically triggered.

RPII’s Environmental monitoring programme

The RPII carries out rigorous and continuous testing to ensure that environmental radiation remains within internationally agreed and legal safety limits. These tests ensure that we are quickly aware of any change in environmental radiation in Ireland, and able to provide any necessary advice to the public and Government.

The key elements of the RPII monitoring programme are:

  • Assessment of ambient radioactivity based on measurements of radioactivity in air and of external gamma dose rate from a network of permanent monitoring stations located throughout the country.
  • Assessment of levels of radioactivity in a variety of food products and drinking water.
  • Assessment of levels of radioactivity in the Irish marine environment based on sampling and measurement of seawater, sediment, seaweed, fish and shellfish.

The programme combines round-the-clock measurements from the permanent monitoring network and a programme of sampling followed by laboratory testing. The RPII take and test around 2000 samples every year. Most samples are taken from fixed locations throughout Ireland. Results of the monitoring can be found in our latest report Radioactivity Monitoring of the Irish Environment 2009. More recent monitoring data is also available on the website and is updated on an on-going basis.