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Ionising radiation

Environmental Radioactivity - Medicine - Occupational Radiation Protection - Nuclear Hazards Defence

Ionisierende Strahlung

Ionising radiation

Ionising radiation includes both electromagnetic radiation (such as X-rays and gamma radiation) and particle radiation (such as alpha, beta and neutron radiation). Its main feature is that it has enough energy to ionise atoms and molecules.

Radioactive substances emit ionising radiation. Natural radioactive substances exist, e.g., in living organismen, i.e. also in man or in the soils and rocks of the earth´s crust. In the medical field, in research, technology and through using nuclear energy ionising radiation and radioactive substances are used purposefully and generated artificially.

Natural exposure in Germany

The total natural radiation exposure in Germany, respectively the annual effective dose for members of the public is on average 2.1 millisieverts. Depending on the place of residence, dietary and life habits, it sometimes adds up from 1 millisievert to 10 millisieverts.

Brazil nuts in front of a bowl

Natural radioactivity in food

With the essential elements for food taken up from the soil, also radioactive substances get into the plants and thus into the food chain. Knowledge of the content of natural radioactive substances in food is necessary to estimate the radiation exposure to man resulting from the ingestion of food. The results show that with regard to the mixed diet, there is no significant difference between the individual German regions.

X-ray photograph

X-ray diagnostics – the procedure

In X-ray diagnostics, a difference distinction is made between three techniques: radiography, fluoroscopy and computerized tomography (CT).


Radiation exposure of airline passengers

Many people travel for business or pleasure reasons to their distant destinations by plane. These aircraft often fly at altitudes and latitudes, where substantially more radiation affects men than on the Earth’s surface. The energies of this high altitude radiation are so high that they can not be shielded.

Interlaboratory comparison and proficiency testing of passive radon measuring devices

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection's (BfS) Radon Calibration Laboratory performs interlaboratory comparisons for passive radon measuring devices. These comparisons serve the purpose of quality assurance for institutions performing and evaluating radon measurements either for the monitoring of occupationally exposed persons or for households. National as well as international measuring institutions can participate. For the first time in 2019, an additional proficiency testing of the interlaboratory comparison results will be performed upon request.

The current interlaboratory comparison of passive radon measurement devices will take place in the 1st quarter of 2019.

Wild boar searching for food

Radioactive contamination of mushrooms and wild game

As a result of the Chernobyl reactor accident, certain species of mushrooms and wild game are still highly contaminated with caesium-137 in some areas of Germany. This applies especially to Southern Germany – in particular Southern Bavaria and the Bavarian Forest.

NGA exercise RASPAD

Defence against nuclear hazards

In Germany, the federal states ("Bundesländer") are responsible for the defence against hazards. The BfS can support other civil authorities, provided that radiological dangers are present. If the civil authorities responding to an event involving radioactive material out of regulatory control require support, the BfS can offer help. The working group for the defence against nuclear hazards (NGA) has the task of preparing the entire BfS for just such requests.

© Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz