Rockfalls and landslides, natural background radiation, toxic substances in the soil . . . Just how dangerous is nature? And what can we do to reduce the risks and prevent disasters – both those with natural causes and the ones we ourselves are responsible for?
To plan as safe a society as possible, we need to take account both of the hazards that exist in nature and the ones we ourselves have created. Which areas are susceptible to landslides? Where is radiation from the ground abnormally high? How vulnerable is our drinking water supply? And where do soil and groundwater contain high levels of harmful substances?
Landslides and rockfalls
Certain types of ground, especially clay soils on sloping ground or adjoining water, are particularly prone to landslides and rockfalls. The best thing of all is to avoid building on such sites, but if there already are buildings there, we need to be able to assess how great the landslide risk is and what action, if any, needs to be taken.
What is there in our soil and water?
Soil and water contain metals and other substances, which either occur there naturally or have been introduced by human activities. When planning new housing areas or trying to improve wells with poor-quality water, for example, we need information on both background and total concentrations of different substances.
Protecting our most important food
Water is one of our most important foods. When a risk of contamination or poisoning arises, a society needs to know where there are reserves of surface and ground water. It is also important to establish in advance how vulnerable our drinking water supplies are, to eliminate risks wherever possible, and to make plans for dealing with any accidents that may occur.
In Sweden, as in the rest of the world, bedrock and soils emit natural radiation. This is because they contain small proportions of radioactive elements, such as uranium and thorium. A high concentration of uranium in the ground can give rise to problems of radon in indoor air and well water.
SGU maps levels of ground radiation in Sweden. We are also represented on a national emergency planning group responsible for identifying emissions of radioactive substances, headed by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI).
Geological information for prevention
Read more about how you can use geological information from SGU for prevention purposes
More general information on radiation can be found on the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) web site.