Ionising radiation causes the
production of electrically charged particles, called ions, in the
materials it strikes.
Ionising radiation may be man made, medical x-rays for
example, or naturally occurring, such as radon gas.
There are different types of ionising radiation:
- X-rays and gamma rays
- Alpha particles
- Beta particles
- Cosmic radiation
Ionising radiation is significant because it can cause changes in
living tissue and so has the ability to cause health effects.
Exposure to man-made ionising radiation from medical and industrial
activity is closely controlled, however, and only represents a
small part of our total exposure to radiation.
Radioactive Materials Register
A number of premises in Newham store or use small amounts
of radioactive materials; examples include Americium 241 used in
smoke detectors and Polonium 210 used in dust detection and
All premises containing radioactive materials in the borough are
registered with the Environment Agency (EA) under the Radioactive
Substances Act 1993. As part of the registration, the premises will
only be allowed to hold stipulated amounts of radioactive material,
under stipulated conditions.
The EA is obliged to send copies of documentation associated with
registration to the Pollution Control Unit. All documentation is
kept on file and can be viewed by members of the public, by
appointment. Further details are available from Pollution Control
Unit on 020 8430 2000 or
Radon gas is responsible for half of the radiation exposure in the
UK and is therefore a radiation source that many individuals are
concerned about. The gas is produced from the decay of uranium,
naturally present in rocks and building materials. The gas can
accumulate within buildings and can then be inhaled; however in the
open air it is diluted to low levels.
Areas at risk within the UK are mainly those where the underlying
rock is granite, or where granite is used in construction. The
underlying stratum within Newham is a mixture of alluvium, gravels
and chalk and therefore the exposure to radon from this source is
minimal. This is supported by a survey carried out by the then
National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) in 1995, where 5
properties in Newham produced an average of 17 Becqurels (Bq)
m-3. A similar survey of 6 properties in 1997 produced
an average of 15 Bqm-3, with a high value recorded in E6
of 30 Bq m-3. Newham falls into the category of having
'less than 1% of homes which are above the government action level
of 200 Bq m-3'.
Protection Division of the Health Protection Agency offers a
service that calculates the radon potential for an individual
property or confirms whether or not the property is within a
radon-affected area. Find out more, including how to order their
service, on the HPA's Radon in the Home web page.
The London Borough of Newham is a member of the London Wide
Radiation Monitoring Group (LWRMG). LWRMG is made up of London
Boroughs that contribute to a scheme to monitor background levels
of radiation in response to the widespread concerns expressed by
people in local communities following the Chernobyl incident in
In addition to membership of LWRMG routine radiation monitoring has
recently been implemented in Newham. The results of the monitoring
do not show elevated radioactivity and are within recommended
guidelines, the results are not cause for concern.