Environmental and Background Radiation

This is a broad category covering everything from radon to granite countertops to NORM and TENORM. If your question relates to radiation in the environment, then select this category.

This video will teach you all about radon: what it is, where it comes from, and whether or not you should be concerned.

The following web pages contain more information on radon:

HPS Radon Position Statement "Update on Perspectives and Recommendations on Indoor Radon"

HPS Ask the Experts Radon Question and Answer 10299

HPS Ask the Experts Radon Question and Answer 11141

HPS Ask the Experts Radon Page

EPA Map of Radon Zones Including State Radon Information and Contacts

EPA Radon Web Page

EPA Local Radon Zones


This video will teach you all about TENORM, or technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material.

The following web pages contain more information on TENORM:

HPS Nonionizing Radiation video


EPA TENORM: Oil and Gas Production Wastes Web Page

HPS "Debunking 'America's Radioactive Secret' by Rolling Stone Magazine"

HPS Ask the Experts "Environmental and Background Radiation" Page

FAQs Developed by the HPS

The following FAQs have been developed by our topic editors for this category:

  HPS FAQ   Are Our Bodies Radioactive?
  HPS FAQ   Hair Analysis for Uranium
  HPS FAQ   Is Anything We Use in Everyday Life Radioactive?
  HPS FAQ   Pregnancy and Flying
  HPS FAQ   Radiation Environment During Space Flight and on Other Planets
  HPS FAQ   Radiation Exposure During Commercial Airline Flights
  HPS FAQ   Solar Flares and Air Travel
  HPS FAQ   What Are Some Sources of Radiation Exposure?
  HPS FAQ   What Is Radiation?

Relevant HPS Web Pages

The following HPS Web pages also address this category:

  PDF   A Citizen's Guide to Uranium Mining
  PDF   AARST Granite Position Statement_8_04_2008
  PDF   Background Radiation Fact Sheet
  PDF   Consumer Products Fact Sheet
  PDF   Environmental Radiation Fact Sheet
  PDF   Particulate Air Monitoring Mathematical Sourcebook
  PDF   Radiation from granite countertops
  PDF   Update on Perspectives and Recommendations on Indoor Radon
  PDF   Uranium Fact Sheet
  PDF   Uranium Primer

Questions Answered by HPS Experts

The following health physics questions have been answered by an expert and approved by our editors for inclusion in our "Ask the Experts" feature. Click on the question to see the answer.

Questions in this Category Are in the Following Subcategories:
  •  Building and Construction Material
  •  Granite and Stone Countertops
  •  General
  •  Water
  •  Airplanes
  •  Chemical Elements and Compounds
  •  Cosmic Radiation
  •  Measurements and Reporting
  •  Plants and Animals
  •  Radon
  •  Rocks, Minerals, and Mines
  •  Soil and Fallout
  •  Space Flight
  •  Weather
  •  Miscellaneous
Building and Construction Material
Q7922   –   Use of naturally radioactive tiles for home flooring
Q9011   –   Radiation from flooring material
Q9574   –   Dose from volcanic tuff in concrete
Q9778   –   Radiation hazards from brick home
Q10233   –   Radiation from ceramic floor tiles
Q11399   –   Do natural building materials increase background radiation exposure?
Q12384   –   Calculating radiation hazards from building materials
Granite and Stone Countertops
Q3991   –   Dose from granite
Q6969   –   Health hazard from granite countertops
Q7746   –   Measurements: Using a GM detector for granite countertops
Q7834   –   Determining health hazards from granite countertops
Q7855   –   Measurements: Interpreting GM detector results for granite countertops
Q8526   –   Devices for measuring radiation of granite and stones.
Q9809   –   Quartz countertop
Q12034   –   GM measurements of granite countertop
Q12718   –   Travertine, marble, and granite on bathroom and/or kitchen surfaces
Q9438   –   Convert ground concentrations to effective doses
Q10453   –   What if there was no radiation?
Q12844   –   Potential radiation risk from radioactivity in clays
Q8147   –   Effect of radium in drinking water on children
Q8498   –   Maximum contaminant level for Technetium-99
Q9937   –   Dose from radium-226 or radon-222
Q10627   –   Comparing radium and uranium levels in well water
Q10693   –   Uranium in well water
Q11022   –   Removing radionuclides from drinking water
Q11425   –   Radioactive selenium collecting in reverse osmosis water purification system
Q11510   –   Use of radioactivity in the environment
Q11601   –   Limits for iodine-131 in water and soil
Q12022   –   Radium in water
Q12705   –   Removing radionuclides from water
Q7221   –   Solar storms/cosmic rays
Q8866   –   Risks from flying cargo in a jet
Q9770   –   Radiation exposure to infants and children from flying
Q9944   –   Headaches from flying
Q10180   –   Should we fly during solar flares?
Q10593   –   Shielding from radiation on an airplane
Q11105   –   Electrical grounding during flight to protect from cosmic radiation
Q11358   –   Dosimeter for measuring in-flight dose
Q11418   –   Radiation dose from frequent international flights
Q12391   –   Will I get cancer from an airplane trip?
Q12510   –   Risk to child from international flights
Q13060   –   Radiation dose and safety during high altitude flight
Chemical Elements and Compounds
Q7501   –   Use of samarium powder
Cosmic Radiation
Q7178   –   Variations in cosmic radiation
Q10108   –   How much radiation is produced by a super nova?
Measurements and Reporting
Q10177   –   Interpreting radiation-meter readings
Q10217   –   Materials that affect background radiation measurements
Q10383   –   Understanding background measurements from Bangalore, India
Q10406   –   Gamma attenuation by soil moisture
Q10780   –   Gamma attenuation by moisture in clay soils
Q10957   –   Radionuclides for calibrating environmental dosimeters
Q11428   –   Establishing background radiation levels
Q11980   –   Negative values in low-activity environmental samples
Q12128   –   Background radiation levels on island off Thailand
Q12471   –   Discriminating beta radiation from gamma background radiation
Q12507   –   Effects of climate on background reading
Plants and Animals
Q8533   –   Will gamma radiation affect crops?
Q11260   –   Cesium-137 in elk
Q12570   –   Can radium equivalent activity and internal hazard index be applied to plant samples?
Q12676   –   Uranium in vegetable garden soil
Q7498   –   Less than 90 days on radon test
Q7499   –   Testing for radon, radium, uranium
Q7554   –   Is furniture affected by radon?
Q7853   –   Accuracy of short-term radon detectors
Q9222   –   Radon emission from rock specimens containing uranium
Q9440   –   Dose to plants from radon
Q9462   –   Convert radon concentrations to working level
Q10041   –   Radon vent pipe location
Q10155   –   Test well water for radon and radium
Q10245   –   How to calculate working level (WL) month
Q10295   –   World War II gauge
Q10299   –   Concerned about radon spikes
Q10375   –   Radon in air and in water
Q11141   –   Calculating risk from radon exposure
Q11692   –   Purchasing a home with elevated radon levels
Q11737   –   Who is right about radon hazards?
Q11833   –   Effects of radon, radium, and uranium in well water
Q11963   –   Calculating risk from radon
Q11973   –   Radon units and conversion factors
Q12071   –   Lung repair after radon exposure
Q12163   –   Using a particulate mask to filter radon
Q12177   –   Mapping radon throughout a city
Q12249   –   Studies of radon health effects
Q12305   –   Location of radon vent pipe
Q12725   –   Radon on clothing stored in basement
Q12855   –   Potential radiation risk from carbon filters
Q12932   –   Variability of radon concentration over years
Q12988   –   Potential indoor radon risk to the developing fetus
Q13127   –   Dose from radon in charcoal filter
Q13424   –   Basement radon levels and exercise
Q13502   –   Is home made entirely of granite emitting dangerous radon levels?
Q13705   –   Radon progeny in dust on cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs
Q13924   –   Safety of radium dial compasses
Q15350   –   Radon from geothermal heating
Rocks, Minerals, and Mines
Q7943   –   Converting uranium rock dose rate to activity
Q8362   –   Irradiated gemstones
Q9107   –   Risks from Marcellus Shale radiation
Q11031   –   Does the Earth’s crust shield us from core radiation?
Q11474   –   Dangers of living near uranium mine
Q11680   –   Should I remove a uranite specimen from my house?
Q12051   –   Uranium mill tailings in Lodève, France
Q12415   –   Risks from trucks hauling uranium ore
Q12581   –   Radiation risk from jewelry made of petrified wood
Q12846   –   Potential radiation risk from use of irradiated gemstones
Soil and Fallout
Q8040   –   Fallout on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands
Q8457   –   Fallout in Southwestern United States
Q8887   –   Effects of exposure to background radiation in Utah
Q9057   –   Measuring thorium and potassium levels in sand
Q9606   –   Measuring natural radionuclides in soil
Q10051   –   Effects of nuclear tests in the Montebello Islands
Q10804   –   Fallout contamination on furniture from the Marshall Islands
Q10993   –   Thyroid disease in prior residents of Marshall Islands
Q11287   –   Residual radioactivity in Utah
Q11678   –   Information about health effects from atmospheric nuclear testing
Q11730   –   Could leather detector case be radioactive?
Q12601   –   Is it safe to live in fallout-contaminated areas of the United States?
Q12658   –   Can we detect fission products in my body from long ago?
Q14261   –   Thyroid cancer risk from radioactive fallout
Space Flight
Q8406   –   Radiation protection in space
Q10893   –   Radiation from lightning
Q11563   –   Internet reports of increased background radiation
Q11784   –   Interpreting background radiation readings posted on radiation network website
Q11800   –   Worldwide background radiation levels
Q12631   –   Is potassium-40, the natural radioactive component of potassium, dangerous?
Q13661   –   Is my wooden jewelry box from Finland contaminated with fallout from Chernobyl?
Q13810   –   Is there a radiation source in my apartment?

Other Useful Websites

The following websites may also be useful:

  External website   A Citizen's Guide to Radon – US Environmental Protection Agency
  External website   Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes – US Environmental Protection Agency
  External website   CARI-6: Radiobiology Research Team – Federal Aviation Administration
  External website   Health Effects of Exposure to Radon: BEIR VI – National Academy of Sciences
  External website   NCRP Commentary No. 12 – National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements
  External website   NCRP Reports 132 and 137 – National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements
  External website   Phosphate Research Areas – Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute
  External website   Publications About Radon – US Environmental Protection Agency
  External website   Radiation – The University of Michigan
  External website   Radiation Protection - Environmental Protection Agency
  External website   Radiation, Radioactivity, and Risk Assessment Poster – General Atomics, Fusion Education
  External website   Radioactivity in Nature – Idaho State University
  External website   Radon FAQs – US Environmental Protection Agency
  External website   Risks from Low Levels of Ionising Radiation - Health Protection Agency, United Kingdom
  External website   Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation - United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation
  External website   Space Radiation Health Project - NASA, Johnson Space Center (Home)
  External website   Space Weather – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  External website   TENORM – US Environmental Protection Agency
  External website   The Centers for Disease Control
  External website   WHO Handbook on Indoor Radon, A Public Health Perspective – World Health Organization