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General Information - Radiation Protection

Radiation Protection - Why?

People have always lived in natural radiation fields. Radiation originates from space and from naturally radioactive substances in the air, in water and in the soil. In addition to these natural sources of radiation people are also exposed to other forms of radiation in today's technological age. This man-made radiation originates, for instance, from the operation of nuclear power plants and the use of X-ray machines and mobile communication facilities.

Radiation can be harmful to humans and to the environment. Therefore, limit values are set to avoid any verifiable damage. The ultimate objective is to keep radiation levels as low as possible.

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Radiation Protection Ordinance and X-Ray Ordinance

The Radiation Protection Ordinance (StrlSchV) and the X-Ray Ordinance (RöV) set out limit values and protective measures to keep humans safe from the harmful effects of ionising radiation. Both ordinances have established 1 millisievert (mSv) per calendar year as population limit value. For work-related exposure to radioactivity, X-rays and cosmic radiation, the limit value is now 20 mSv per calendar year. This applies, for example, to employees of nuclear power plants who work with radioactive material, aircrews and staff working with X-ray equipment. Whereas the previous radiation protection legislation only covered man-made radiation, the amended Radiation Protection Ordinance (Strahlenschutzverordnung, StrlSchV) of 2001 also includes raised levels of radiation from natural sources.

Since August 2005 special requirements apply for the use of highly radioactive sources of radiation. These sources must be specifically labelled, and used radiation sources must be returned or properly disposed of. All highly radioactive sources in the whole of Germany are, moreover, listed in a new central register kept at the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz , BfS).

Both ordinances were last amended in 2011. The requirements for licensing procedures governing the use of radioactive substances or of ionising radiation on human beings in medical research were, for example, simplified and streamlined. A further objective is the simplification of procedures through increased use of electronic data processing which will contribute to cut administrative costs in industry considerably.

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Monitoring of Environmental Radioactivity

After the nuclear accident at Chernobyl the monitoring of levels of radioactivity in the environment was considerably stepped up and extended. Activity concentrations in the ambient air and in water bodies are continuously measured by a stationary measuring network. In addition to that there is a round-the-clock monitoring of the radiation levels in the Federal Republic through more than 2000 measuring stations. An additional extensive measuring programme records the activity concentrations in food, animal feeds and drinking water in Germany to make sure that even minute changes in the contamination situation in Germany are registered and can prompt the necessary action.

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Radon in Homes

A special problem for radiation protection is the gas radon which possesses a natural radioactivity. It is emitted from the subsoil, penetrates dwellings and is held responsible for approximately 2000 lung cancer deaths in Germany. Radon is above all emitted in the lower mountain ranges. Extensive constructional experience is meanwhile available on how to reduce radon exposures in homes.

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Electromagnetic Radiation - Mobile Phones

For mobile phones and base stations of mobile telephone systems there are limit values to prevent any health damage So far no scientific evidence has been found on any health damage occurring below these thresholds. So as to improve the knowledge base on any potential health impacts below the applicable limit values, the Federal Environment Ministry commissioned the Federal Office for Radiation Protection to carry out the German Mobile Telecommunication Research Programme (Deutsches Mobilfunk Forschungsprogramm, DMF). Further information is available at www.emf-forschungsprogramm.de.

The communications operators have committed themselves to encouraging mobile phone manufacturers to develop low-emission mobile phones. The specific absorption rates (SAR) of all mobile phones can be found at www.bfs.de.

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