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Radiation

Radiation

What District Councils Are Doing

All Councils in Northern Ireland are represented on the Northern Ireland Radiation Monitoring Group. Its function is to provide quality assured independent information on radiation matters at a local level. As part of this a comprehensive monitoring and sampling programme for radiation has been set up.

Monitoring Programme

Initially background levels of gamma radioactivity from the ground were measured throughout Northern Ireland on a 10km grid basis using portable radiation meters called mini 6-80 instruments. Presently selected sites across the council areas are monitored on a rolling programme. These background levels enable changes to be detected more easily in the event of any future radiation incidents and enable a database to be built up of background radiation levels.

Permanent automated radiation monitoring stations (Argus systems) are sited at five locations throughout Northern Ireland - Portavogie, Belfast, Omagh, Kilkeel and Coleraine. These monitors are designed to continuously check levels of gamma radiation and trigger an alarm if unusually high levels are detected. In the event of any radiation incident affecting the United Kingdom action will be taken by the government under a National Response Plan.

Sampling programme

A sampling programme of foodstuffs and environmental materials has been ongoing since 1984. Samples include silt, fish, shellfish, seaweed, heather honey, meat, grass and water. These samples have been routinely submitted for radioactivity and although they show some contamination, are well within accepted guidelines issued by the Health Protection Agency (formerly National Radiological Protection Board) and are much less than radiation levels from natural sources such as radon.

Radon

Radon is a natural radioactive gas, which has no taste, smell or colour. It comes from the radioactive decay of radium, which, in turn, comes from the radioactive decay of uranium. Special equipment is needed to detect it. The level of radioactivity in the air due to the presence of radon, is measured in units of Becquerel per cubic metre (Bq/m3).

How can radon affect me?

Radon in the soil and rocks mixes with air and rises to the surface where it is quickly diluted in the atmosphere. In some circumstances, when it enters enclosed spaces such as houses, it can reach high levels of concentration. As the radon decays, it forms minute particles of a radioactive substance which are called Radon daughters which, when inhaled, can be deposited in the lungs. The radiation emitted by these particles as they decay can give high doses to lung tissue and may damage them. This product increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

Sampling for radon

A report ‘Radon in Dwellings in Northern Ireland’ was published in 2009. This report details the work, funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, to produce maps of the probability of high radon concentrations in homes throughout Northern Ireland and to bring together all the data held in the UK national radon database on radon levels in homes in Northern Ireland. Public Health England published new radon maps for Northern Ireland in July 2015. The new map combines thousands of radon measurements with detailed geological information to produce a more accurate map. 1 km atlas data is available to view as an interactive map on the UKradon website (www.ukradon.org). Members of the public can use this interactive map to find out the radon potential for an individual address.

What to do if your home has a high level of radon

The recommended action level for radon in existing homes, above which action is recommended to reduce it, is 200 Bq/m3 average radon concentration over a full year. Advice on how to reduce the risk of radon gas entering your home can be obtained by contacting the Environmental Health Service Unit or the Building Control Service.

For further information on environmental radiation matters contact:

Environmental Health Service Unit
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
Civic Headquarters
Lagan Valley Island
Lisburn
BT27 4RL

Tel: 028 9244 7867
Email: eheath@lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk

Building Control Service
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
Civic Headquarters
Lagan Valley Island
Lisburn
BT27 4RL

Tel: 028 9250 9372
Email: building.control@lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk

Northern Ireland Environment Agency Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate Air and Environmental Quality Team
Goodwood House
44 - 58 May Street
Town Parks
Belfast BT1 4NN

Tel.: 028 9025 4758
Email: aeqteam@doeni.gov.uk
Web: http://www.ni-environment.gov.uk/pollution/radiation.htm

Health Protection Agency
Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards
Chilton
Didcot
Oxfordshire
 

Freephone: 01235831600
Web: www.hpa.org.uk