Find out about natural and artificial radiation and how different types of radiation are monitored.
Natural and artificial radiation
Our environment has always had radiation in it. Natural radioactive materials can be found emitting from traces of uranium in rocks, soil resulting in measurable amounts of radon in the air we breathe. Radiation can also be found in food, water and buildings.
Artificial radiation sources have been introduced to the environment since the 1940s as new radioactive materials have been created in laboratories, from nuclear power provision and atomic weapons.
The population is subjected to Radon more than any other radiation source in the UK. Research suggests that Radon is the second biggest contributor to lung cancer after smoking. That said the softer rock geology under Brighton & Hove gives rise to lower levels of radon that other parts of Britain.
The average radon level in homes throughout the UK is 20 becquerals per cubic metre. (1 becqueral per cubic metre = 1 disintegration per second per cubic metre of air. 1 becqueral = 1 disintegration per second of radon atoms).
Radon is usually found in granite rocks and clay soils. Brighton & Hove lies mainly on chalk which does not contain high levels of uranium and therefore is not a major Radon emitter.
Atmospheric Gamma Radiation
Since the disastrous explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in April 1986, a network of atmospheric gamma radiation monitoring around the UK was set up.
Brighton & Hove City Council have three monitoring sites across the city at Saltdean, Hollingbury and Mile Oak. Monitoring at each site takes place on the second Tuesday of each month and the results are collated and analysed at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, in Brighton.
The local Sussex group also participates in any Nuclear Incident Exercises that are organised by Radioactive Incident Monitoring Network (RIMNet), which assesses emergency response procedures.
The Environmental Health Team keeps a register of radiation sources that are held by organisations such as hospitals within Brighton & Hove.