United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Exposure

Absorption of ionizing radiation or ingestion of a radioisotope. Acute exposure is a large exposure received over a short period of time. Chronic exposure is exposure received over a long period of time, such as during a lifetime. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) estimates that an average person in the United States receives a total annual dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) from all radiations sources, a level that has not been shown to cause humans any harm. Of this total, natural background sources of radiation—including radon and thoron gas, natural radiation from soil and rocks, radiation from space and radiation sources that are found naturally within the human body—account for approximately 50 percent. Medical procedures such as computed tomography (CT scans) and nuclear medicine account approximately for another 48 percent. Other small contributors of exposure to the U.S. population includes consumer products and activities, industrial and research uses, and occupational tasks. The maximum permissible yearly dose for a person working with or around nuclear material is 5 rem. For additional detail, see Doses in Our Daily Lives and Measuring Radiation.

Pie Chart of Sources of Radiation Exposure in the United States

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, May 07, 2014