Radiation, radioactivity & sound

Radiation is everywhere: everyone comes across the subject sooner or later, whether as a citizen, consumer, patient or at work. In many cases we profit from radiation, one only has to think about diagnostic x-rays in medicine. But we occasionally need to be careful – where radon or UV radiation are concerned, for example. Inform yourself here about the possible risks, protective measures and licensing requirements for handling ionising radiation.

Our task as the centrally responsible Federal Authority is to protect people from the dangers of radiation and to facilitate beneficial applications. We inform – and raise awareness among – the public and among specifically affected occupational groups. The FOPH approves and supervises all applications and facilities using ionising radiation in medicine, teaching, research and industry (with the exception of nuclear power plants). Under Radiation protection: Licenses, requirements and supervision (in german) you'll find our application forms and further information for affected providers. We also measure radioactivity in the environment, implement action plans for radon and radium and contribute to the preparation for radiological emergency situations. Where non-ionising radiation (NIR) is concerned, we inform the public about minimising radiation exposure from products that emit NIR or sound, and we are responsible for enacting the corresponding legislation.

Terminology: We make a basic distinction between ionising and non-ionising radiation. This radiation spectrum (in german) illustrates the various types of radiation.

Non-ionising radiation and sound

Non-ionising radiation (NIR) covers ultraviolet (UV) radiation, visible light, infrared radiation and electromagnetic fields (EMF). Ultraviolet radiation, visible light and infrared radiation form the higher-energy range of NIR and are summarised under the term "optical radiation". Typical sources of optical radiation include the sun, lamps, laser light and solaria. The electromagnetic fields that are not included under optical radiation form the lower energy range of NIR and are mainly generated by technical means, for example by induction hobs or mobile phones.

This radiation spectrum (in german) illustrates the various types of radiation.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), UV, Laser and Light

The FOPH monitors the exposure of the public to non-ionising radiation and keeps track of the research on possible biological and health effects.

Ionising radiation, radioactivity

Ionising radiation covers x-rays and gamma rays, as well as alpha, beta and neutron radiation. The most important property of ionising radiation is that it possesses enough energy to ionise atoms and molecules.
Radioactive substances emit ionising radiation. Natural radioactive substances occur, for example, in living organisms – including in humans or in soils and rocks of the earth's crust. Ionising radiation and radioactive substances are used and artificially generated in medicine, research, technology and the use of nuclear power.

This radiation spectrum (in german) illustrates the various types of radiation.

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive noble gas, which can seep into buildings through the ground.

Licences, conditions and supervision

The FOPH approves the radiological applications and facilities in medicine, teaching research and industry throughout Switzerland. The providers concerned can find the application forms here (in german), as well as plenty of information about the licensing requirements and the supervisory work of the FOPH.

For medical units that provide computed tomography, nuclear medicine, radiation oncology or fluoroscopy-guided interventional diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, information about the new clinical audits can be found here.

Dosimetry and occupational radiation exposure

Occupationally exposed persons must be adequately protected from ionising radiation. This includes individual monitoring of the absorbed radiation dose.

Regulations and legislation