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.
Selected sites across council areas are monitored on a rolling programme for background radiation. These levels enable changes to be detected more easily in the event of any future radiation incidents and a database to be built up.
Permanent automated radiation monitoring stations (Argus systems) are sited at 5 locations throughout Northern Ireland - Portavogie, Belfast, Omagh, Kilkeel and Coleraine.
These monitors 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.
A sampling programme of foodstuffs and environmental materials includes silt, fish, shellfish, seaweed, heather honey, meat, grass and water.
These samples are routinely submitted for radioactivity and although they show some contamination are well within accepted guidelines and are much less than radiation levels from natural sources such as radon.
Radon is a natural radioactive gas, which has no taste, smell or colour. Special equipment is needed to detect it as it comes from the radioactive decay or radium/uranium.
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' that if inhaled can be deposited in the lungs. The radiation emitted by these particles can give high doses to lung tissue and may damage them. This product increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Sampling for radon
Public Health England published radon maps for Northern Ireland in July 2015. It can be viewed online using this link should you wish to check 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 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 us.
For further information on environmental radiation matters contact:
Environmental Health Service Unit Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Civic Headquarters Lagan Valley Island Lisburn BT27 4RL