Here at Rosetta Radiology, we understand the apprehension that surrounds medical procedures that use ionizing radiation. After major fallouts in the past hundred years, some fear still lingers around the topic. But did you know we’re already exposed to radiation everyday? In small amounts, it’s just a part of life! 


Under the right conditions while properly monitored, radiation is a medical wonder that can help diagnose hidden illnesses and even beat cancer. Let’s take a look at some common sources of daily radiation exposure and compare them to a few diagnostic imaging tests.

Four Common Radiation Exposure Examples

#1: Natural Environmental

Yearly Radiation Exposure: 200-300 mrem

Depending on where you live, this number may be higher or lower; you can take a look at how distance from fault lines and altitude affect your yearly exposure. Furthermore, if you regularly intake or use untreated water from a location that has radon and arsenic, your yearly exposure may be much higher. However, the purpose of this number is to show you that, even without medical procedures, your body will never be exposed to 0.0 mrem.

#2: Electronics

Yearly Radiation Exposure: 10-15 mrem

Cellphones, wearable technology, and other electronics all emit a type of non-ionizing radiation called RF radiation. There’s no reason to believe that electronic devices can cause us any harm, but they do contribute to our total yearly radiation exposure.

#3: Traveling By Air

Radiation Exposure Per 1000 Miles: 1 mrem

Since airplanes travel at high altitudes, the exposure to ionizing radiation from space and the sun are much higher when traveling by air. If you travel long distances frequently, your yearly exposure may be a little higher than someone who does not travel by air.

#4: Cigarette Smoke

Radiation Exposure Per Cigarette: Varies

While it’s not surprising, many people don’t realize how much radiation can be inhaled throughout the course of a year by a smoker. According to the CDC, each cigarette contains two different radioactive compounds: polonium-210 and lead-210. Not only do these substances enter your body, but they also stay there, embedded in tar. 


The amount of ionizing radiation varies from smoker to smoker, and even non-smokers can be affected by secondhand smoke. One source suggests that a single cigarette per day accumulates to 15-10 mrem in a year; however, most smokers don’t have just one cigarette in a day. (So this is one daily radiation source we do recommend elimating.)

How Much Radiation Is Safe?

This is all great, but how much radiation is safe? Is it okay to continue exposing yourself to these sources of radiation? Should we be concerned about the extra radiation that comes from imaging tests? It’s generally best to limit your additional radiation exposure as much as possible. However, if you need a diagnostic imaging test to help you deal with a disease or condition, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Adults are recommended to receive less than 5000 mrem of radiation per year.

Diagnostic Imaging in Manhattan

Here at Rosetta Radiology, we understand our patients’ desires to avoid unnecessary radiation. History and experience have taught us that radiation has the potential to be very dangerous. However, the amounts of radiation that our diagnostic imaging machines use are minimal一 compared to dangerous sources. For example, a chest x-ray exposes someone to only 1 mrem of radiation, while a chest CT will expose you to 400 mrem and an abdomen CT to about 1000 mrem


Do you need a diagnostic imaging procedure? Contact the professional team of radiologists at Rosetta Radiology; we’re right here in Manhattan!