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Concept: Background radiation


Radiation dose rates were evaluated in three areas neighboring a restricted area within a 20- to 50-km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in August-September 2012 and projected to 2022 and 2062. Study participants wore personal dosimeters measuring external dose equivalents, almost entirely from deposited radionuclides (groundshine). External dose rate equivalents owing to the accident averaged 1.03, 2.75, and 1.66 mSv/y in the village of Kawauchi, the Tamano area of Soma, and the Haramachi area of Minamisoma, respectively. Internal dose rates estimated from dietary intake of radiocesium averaged 0.0058, 0.019, and 0.0088 mSv/y in Kawauchi, Tamano, and Haramachi, respectively. Dose rates from inhalation of resuspended radiocesium were lower than 0.001 mSv/y. In 2012, the average annual doses from radiocesium were close to the average background radiation exposure (2 mSv/y) in Japan. Accounting only for the physical decay of radiocesium, mean annual dose rates in 2022 were estimated as 0.31, 0.87, and 0.53 mSv/y in Kawauchi, Tamano, and Haramachi, respectively. The simple and conservative estimates are comparable with variations in the background dose, and unlikely to exceed the ordinary permissible dose rate (1 mSv/y) for the majority of the Fukushima population. Health risk assessment indicates that post-2012 doses will increase lifetime solid cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer incidences by 1.06%, 0.03% and 0.28% respectively, in Tamano. This assessment was derived from short-term observation with uncertainties and did not evaluate the first-year dose and radioiodine exposure. Nevertheless, this estimate provides perspective on the long-term radiation exposure levels in the three regions.

Concepts: Cancer, Ionizing radiation, Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Nuclear power, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Absorbed dose


A cataract is a clouding of the lens that reduces light transmission to the retina, and it decreases the visual acuity of the bearer. The prevalence of cataracts in natural populations of mammals, and their potential ecological significance, is poorly known. Cataracts have been reported to arise from high levels of oxidative stress and a major cause of oxidative stress is ionizing radiation. We investigated whether elevated frequencies of cataracts are found in eyes of bank voles Myodes glareolus collected from natural populations in areas with varying levels of background radiation in Chernobyl. We found high frequencies of cataracts in voles collected from different areas in Chernobyl. The frequency of cataracts was positively correlated with age, and in females also with the accumulated radiation dose. Furthermore, the number of offspring in female voles was negatively correlated with cataract severity. The results suggest that cataracts primarily develop as a function of ionizing background radiation, most likely as a plastic response to high levels of oxidative stress. It is therefore possible that the elevated levels of background radiation in Chernobyl affect the ecology and fitness of local mammals both directly through, for instance, reduced fertility and indirectly, through increased cataractogenesis.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Visual acuity, Sievert, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radon, Radiation hormesis, Background radiation equivalent time


Space radiation is a great danger to electronics and astronauts onboard space vessels. The spectral flux of space electrons, protons and ions for example in the radiation belts is inherently broadband, but this is a feature hard to mimic with conventional radiation sources. Using laser-plasma-accelerators, we reproduced relativistic, broadband radiation belt flux in the laboratory, and used this man-made space radiation to test the radiation hardness of space electronics. Such close mimicking of space radiation in the lab builds on the inherent ability of laser-plasma-accelerators to directly produce broadband Maxwellian-type particle flux, akin to conditions in space. In combination with the established sources, utilisation of the growing number of ever more potent laser-plasma-accelerator facilities worldwide as complementary space radiation sources can help alleviate the shortage of available beamtime and may allow for development of advanced test procedures, paving the way towards higher reliability of space missions.

Concepts: Electron, Particle physics, Proton, Atom, Neutron, Background radiation, Van Allen radiation belt, Radiation hardening


Twelve high schools in Japan (of which six are in Fukushima Prefecture), four in France, eight in Poland and two in Belarus cooperated in the measurement and comparison of individual external doses in 2014. In total 216 high-school students and teachers participated in the study. Each participant wore an electronic personal dosimeter ’D-shuttle' for two weeks, and kept a journal of his/her whereabouts and activities. The distributions of annual external doses estimated for each region overlap with each other, demonstrating that the personal external individual doses in locations where residence is currently allowed in Fukushima Prefecture and in Belarus are well within the range of estimated annual doses due to the terrestrial background radiation level of other regions/countries.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Japan, High school, Background radiation, Prefectures of Japan, Fukushima Prefecture, Tōhoku region, Honshū


We conducted a large record-based case-control study testing associations between childhood cancer and natural background radiation. Cases (27 447) born and diagnosed in Great Britain during 1980-2006 and matched cancer-free controls (36 793) were from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours. Radiation exposures were estimated for mother’s residence at the child’s birth from national databases, using the County District mean for gamma rays, and a predictive map based on domestic measurements grouped by geological boundaries for radon. There was 12% excess relative risk (ERR) (95% CI 3, 22; two-sided P=0.01) of childhood leukaemia per millisievert of cumulative red bone marrow dose from gamma radiation; the analogous association for radon was not significant, ERR 3% (95% CI -4, 11; P=0.35). Associations for other childhood cancers were not significant for either exposure. Excess risk was insensitive to adjustment for measures of socio-economic status. The statistically significant leukaemia risk reported in this reasonably powered study (power ∼50%) is consistent with high-dose rate predictions. Substantial bias is unlikely, and we cannot identify mechanisms by which confounding might plausibly account for the association, which we regard as likely to be causal. The study supports the extrapolation of high-dose rate risk models to protracted exposures at natural background exposure levels.

Concepts: Cancer, Ionizing radiation, Bone marrow, Sievert, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radon, Radiation hormesis


The recent increasing utilization of imaging has increased the population exposure to ionizing radiation. With increasing knowledge of the potential harm of radiation exposure, efforts should be made to minimize patient radiation whenever possible, especially in young children. The purpose of this study was to use the exposure index (EI) standard to assess the potential for reducing radiation dose to babies by removing a soft comfort pad, often placed underneath the baby. The pad is located between the baby and the image detector plate. As such it absorbs x-rays that have already passed through the baby but have not yet reached the imaging detector plate.

Concepts: Infant, Ionizing radiation, X-ray, Radiobiology, Background radiation, Gray, Equivalent dose, Photographic film


Glycol ethers are a class of semi-volatile substances used as solvents in a variety of consumer products like cleaning agents, paints, cosmetics as well as chemical intermediates. We determined 11 metabolites of ethylene and propylene glycol ethers in 44 urine samples of German residents (background level study) and in urine samples of individuals after exposure to glycol ethers during cleaning activities (exposure study). In the study on the background exposure, methoxyacetic acid and phenoxyacetic acid (PhAA) could be detected in each urine sample with median (95th percentile) values of 0.11mgL(-1) (0.30mgL(-1)) and 0.80mgL(-1) (23.6mgL(-1)), respectively. The other metabolites were found in a limited number of samples or in none. In the exposure study, 5-8 rooms were cleaned with a cleaner containing ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (EGBE), propylene glycol monobutyl ether (PGBE), or ethylene glycol monopropyl ether (EGPE). During cleaning the mean levels in the indoor air were 7.5mgm(-3) (EGBE), 3.0mgm(-3) (PGBE), and 3.3mgm(-3) (EGPE), respectively. The related metabolite levels analysed in the urine of the residents of the rooms at the day of cleaning were 2.4mgL(-1) for butoxyacetic acid, 0.06mgL(-1) for 2-butoxypropionic acid, and 2.3mgL(-1) for n-propoxyacetic acid. Overall, our study indicates that the exposure of the population to glycol ethers is generally low, with the exception of PhAA. Moreover, the results of the cleaning scenarios demonstrate that the use of indoor cleaning agents containing glycol ethers can lead to a detectable internal exposure of residents.

Concepts: Median, Arithmetic mean, Ethylene glycol, Diol, Propylene glycol, Background radiation, Urinalysis, Glycol ethers


An assessment of the radiological situation due to exposure to gamma radiation, radon and thoron was carried out at selected former uranium mining and processing sites in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Gamma dose rate measurements were made using various field instruments and radon/thoron measurements were carried out using discriminative radon ((222)Rn)/thoron ((220)Rn) solid state nuclear track detectors (SSNTD). The detectors were exposed for an extended period of time, including at least three seasonal periods in a year, in different outdoor and indoor public and residential environments at the selected uranium legacy sites. The results showed that gamma, Rn and Tn doses were in general low, which consequently implies a low/relatively low radiological risk. The major radiation hazard is represented by abandoned radioactive filtration material that was being used as insulation by some Minkush residents (Kyrgyzstan) for a longer period of time. Annual radiation doses of several hundred mSv could be received as a consequence of using this material domestically. In addition, the gamma and Rn/Tn dose rates at Digmai, Tajikistan, could reach values of several 10 mSv/a. The doses of ionizing radiation deriving from external radiation (gamma dose rate), indoor radon and thoron with their short-lived progenies in several cases exceeded the recommended annual effective dose threshold level of 10 mSv. At none of the sites investigated did the individual annual effective doses exceed 30 mSv, the internationally recommended value for considering intervention. Current doses of ionizing radiation do not represent a serious hazard to the health of the resident public, but this issue should be adequately addressed to further reduce needless exposure of the resident public to ionizing radiation.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Radioactive decay, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radon, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan


The detailed indoor radon survey was conducted during a year (from September 2012 to August 2013) quarterly in Bonghwa county, one of the provisional radon-prone areas in Korea. The surveyed area was selected on the basis of previously conducted nationwide radon survey results. In order to minimise statistical and environmental uncertainties, ∼3 % of the entire dwellings were carefully selected based on the statistical annual report of Bonghwa county. The measurement is carried out by using solid-state nuclear track detector. The range of indoor radon concentration in each dwelling was 4.36-858 Bq m(-3) and that of annual effective dose due to inhaled radon of the resident in each dwelling was 0.19-23.5 mSv y(-1). Each dwelling was determined for geology criterion using one-way Analysis of Variance for the purpose of comparing indoor radon distribution with geology. Geographical distribution of indoor radon is closely related to the geological characteristics of basement rocks. In addition, the comparison between geographical distribution of indoor radon and terrestrial gamma radiation was done.

Concepts: Ionizing radiation, Earth, Geology, Analysis of variance, House, Background radiation, Effective dose, Stratigraphy


Over a period of 13 years (2003-2015), reproductive and cytogenetic effects are investigated in Scots pine populations growing in the Bryansk region of Russia radioactively contaminated as a result of the Chernobyl accident. In reference populations, the frequencies of cytogenetic abnormalities are shown to change with time in a cyclic manner. In chronically exposed populations, the cyclic patterns in temporal dynamics of cytogenetic abnormalities appear to be disturbed. In addition, a tendency to decrease in the frequencies of cytogenetic abnormalities with time as well as an increase in their variability with dose rate is revealed. In contrast, no significant impact of chronic radiation exposure on the time dynamics of reproductive indexes is detected. Finally, long-term observations on chronically exposed Scots pine populations revealed qualitative differences in the temporal dynamics of reproductive and cytogenetic indicators.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Radioactive decay, Radiation poisoning, Background radiation, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear fallout, Nuclear safety, Radionuclide