Man-made sources of radiation

There are artificial (man-made) sources of radiation that we can be exposed to in our daily lives as well as the natural sources, for example:

  • The use of nuclear fission for energy production, although only very small amounts of radiation enter the environment from nuclear facilities
  • Fallout from historical atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, these levels continue to decline since the initiation of international agreements to ban atmospheric tests in the 1960s
  • Last but not least, the increasing use of ionising radiation in medicine.  These medical procedures are only carried out when the benefit to patient outweighs the health risk, but on average exposures to medical sources are growing.

Generally, natural sources of radiation make up the largest part of average population exposures in most countries.  However, in some Western countries about half of the “average” dose to the “average” person originates from such medical applications.  There is of course substantial variation in exposure to medical sources between individuals.