Background radiation

Mr Andrew Murphy and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

Background radiation refers to exposure to ionising radiation in day-to-day life, excluding occupational exposures. Ionising radiation occurs naturally in the environment 1,2:

  • radioactive gas (e.g. radon, thoron): 0.2-2.2 mSv/year
  • external terrestrial (e.g. building materials): 0.3-1 mSv/year
  • ingestion (i.e. diet): 0.2-1 mSv/year
  • cosmic radiation: 0.3-1 mSv/year

Geographic variables in background radiation include altitude (higher altitude results in higher cosmic radiation exposure) and percentage of radioactive gas in the atmosphere. In Australia, the average background radiation is 1.5-2 mSv/year 1, while in the USA it is 3.2 mSv/year 2

Sometimes but not always medical exposure is considered part of background radiation with average doses of 1.7 mSv (Australia) to 3.0 mSv (USA) per person per year 1,2, although this figure will vary dramatically depending on availability and technology.   

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Article information

rID: 53341
Section: Physics
Tag: refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Natural radiation

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