EU Science Hub

European Atlas of Natural Radiation


Natural ionizing radiation is considered as the largest contributor to the collective effective dose received by the world population. The human population is continuously exposed to ionizing radiation from several natural sources that can be classified into two broad categories: high-energy cosmic rays incident on the Earth’s atmosphere and releasing secondary radiation (cosmic contribution); and radioactive nuclides generated during the formation of the Earth and still present in the Earth’s crust (terrestrial contribution). Terrestrial radioactivity is mostly produced by the uranium and thorium radioactive families together with potassium. In most circumstances, radon, a noble gas produced in the radioactive decay of uranium, is the most important contributor to the total dose. This Atlas aims to present the current state of knowledge of natural radioactivity, by giving general background information, and describing its various sources. This reference material is complemented by a collection of maps of Europe displaying the levels of natural radioactivity caused by different sources. It is a compilation of contributions and reviews received from more than 80 experts in their field: they come from universities, research centres, national and European authorities and international organizations. This Atlas provides reference material and makes harmonized datasets available to the scientific community and national competent authorities. In parallel, this Atlas may serve as a tool for the public to: • familiarize itself with natural radioactivity; • be informed about the levels of natural radioactivity caused by different sources; • have a more balanced view of the annual dose received by the world population, to which natural radioactivity is the largest contributor; • and make direct comparisons between doses from natural sources of ionizing radiation and those from man-made (artificial) ones, hence to better understand the latter. Additional information at: