Radiation

The Irish population is exposed to radiation from either natural or man-made sources present in the environment.

Take action on your radiation dose

Radiation in our environment

The EPA 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 you with any health warnings and protection advice necessary. The radiation doses received as a result of artificial radioactivity are small compared with those received as a result of natural radiation and do not constitute a significant health risk.

What's happening with radiation?

Electromagnetic spectrum

On one end of the spectrum, known as ionising radiation, the radiation has enough energy to cause damage to human cells and can potentially lead to cancer. This can come from man-made radioactive waste, X-rays, nuclear accidents or it can come from naturally occurring sources such as radon, radiation in food and soils or indeed radiation from outer space.

On the other end of the spectrum, known as non-ionising radiation, radiation does not have enough energy to break up molecules and no health effects have been identified for members of the public below guideline levels. This type of radiation can come from man-made mobile phones, electrical appliances, power lines, microwave ovens or it can come from natural sources such as the earth’s magnetic field, lightning storms, the sun or even our own bodies. This type of non-ionising radiation is often called Electromagnetic fields (EMF).

 

Exposure and Health

Electromagnetic fields

What's being done?

Ionising radiation has a wide range of applications in modern society including the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, security scanning at airports and ensuring that our bridges and other infrastructure are free from critical defects. Because of its inherent danger, its use is strictly regulated by the EPA.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can build up to unacceptable levels in homes and workplaces. The EPA recommends that you test your home as approximately 350 cases of lung cancer each year in Ireland are linked to radon.

While there are no nuclear power plants in Ireland, an accident abroad could result in contamination of the Irish environment. The EPA closely monitors the Irish environment to detect any changes in levels of radiation. The EPA works closely with the Government, international agencies, emergency services and licensed operators to ensure a rapid response to any radiological emergency in Ireland.

The EPA monitors public exposure to Electromagnetic fields (EMF) and provides independent scientific advice on its impact.

Regulation

Radon

National monitoring network

Radiation Emergencies

Electromagnetic fields (EMF)

FAQs about radiation

in: Radiation

The Irish population is exposed to radiation from several sources, which are present either naturally in the environment or have been produced artificially by man.

Popular FAQs

  • Is it dangerous to swim in the Irish Sea?

    Radioactivity has been monitored in the Irish Sea since 1982.  The levels found would have no significant health effect on the public whether sailing, swimming, or diving in the Irish Sea.  On-going monitoring has shown that discharges of radioactivity have diminished over time.  

     

     

  • Is it safe to eat seafood from the Irish Sea?

    Yes.  The consumption of fish and shellfish is the main way the Irish public are exposed to radiation from Sellafield.  EPA constantly monitors radioactivity in seafood from the Irish Sea. For people who eat very large quantities of fish and shellfish, we have calculated the radiation doses and found that they represent less than one four thousandth of the total annual average dose received by someone living in Ireland.  

  • What is Ireland’s plan for a nuclear emergency?

    There is a national plan in place to reduce the risk to the people in Ireland, following a nuclear emergency abroad. The plan is called the National Plan for Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Exposures and is known as the National Plan 

  • What is radiation?

    Radiation is energy that is transmitted in the form of waves or particles. Scientists divide radiation into two broad categories –ionising radiation, and non-ionising radiation. 

    Ionising radiation is a proven hazard because it has enough energy to break apart molecules such as DNA which may, in time, lead to cancer. Non-ionising radiation does not have enough energy to cause such damage. 

  • Where are we likely to come across ionising radiation?

    We encounter ionising radiation constantly.  It occurs naturally in rocks and soil, in the food and water we eat and drink, and bombards the earth’s atmosphere from outer space.  It is produced artificially, and widely used in medicine, industry and research.  It is used in X-rays, in radiotherapy to treat cancers, in smoke detectors, and in many industrial processes.  The production of electricity from nuclear power generates ionising radiation as a by-product.

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