Medical Definition of Background radiation

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Background radiation: Radiation that comes from environmental sources including the earth's crust, the atmosphere, cosmic rays, and radioisotopes. Natural sources of radiation account for the largest amount of radiation exposure received by most people each year with medical and occupational sources accounting for only a fraction of that exposure. It is currently believed that radon, a gas produced by radium decay within rock, constitutes the major source of background radiation throughout many parts of the US. The buildup of radon in inadequately ventilated homes may pose a long-term health hazard. The deleterious effects of background radiation, estimated as causing 1-6% of spontaneous genetic mutation, rise with dose.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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