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Background radiation and Effects

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    24th Mar, 2023

Context

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has found that ‘background radiation’ levels are nearly three times more than what’s been assumed in the State of Kerala.

Findings of the report:

1 Gray is equivalent to 1 Sievert, though one unit refers to radiation emitted and the other to biological exposure.

  • Background radiation levels that emitted from natural sources such as rocks, sand or mountains, are nearly three times more than what’s been assumed in Kerala.
  • The average natural background levels of gamma radiation in India were 94 nGy/hr (Nano Gray per hour) (or roughly 0.8 milli sievert/year).  

About the Background Radiation:

  • Background radiation levels are emitted from natural sources such as rocks, sand or mountains.
  • All rocks and soils contain some trace amount of natural radioactivity and can sometimes be ingested or inhaled if disturbed.

Radon is a gas that can concentrate indoors and be inhaled, along with its decay products.

  • Radiation results from the disintegrating nucleus of an unstable element and these can be from anywhere, including from inside our bodies to the constituents of matter.
  • Gamma rays are a kind of radiation that can pass unobstructed through matter. Though extremely energetic, they are harmless unless present in large concentrated doses. 
  • Standard Limit:
    • Public exposure shouldn’t exceed 1 milli-Sievert every year; those who work in plants or are by virtue of their occupation shouldn’t be exposed to over 30 milli-Sievert every year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) specifies maximum radiation exposure levels and this has also been adopted by India’s atomic energy establishment.

Source of background radiations:

Natural Source: Natural sources, such as the earth, air, building materials, and food, provide the majority of background radiation. Cosmic rays from outer space also contain radiation.

  • Cosmic Rays- Radiations that reach us from outer space
  • Animals- All Animals emit a natural level of radiation.
  • Rocks- Some rocks give off radioactive radon gas.
  • Soil and plants- Radioactive material from the rock is absorbed by the soil and passed to plants.

Artificial Source: Human activity, on the other hand, has increased background radiation by building and employing artificial radiation sources.

  • X-Rays- When going through security or having an X-ray in the hospital, we are exposed to this type of radiation.
  • Nuclear missile- Man has exploded bombs in the environment, producing radioactivity.
  • Nuclear Power- Radiation has been emitted into the atmosphere by nuclear power plants.
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