What is a Dosimeter?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Dosimeters are electronic devices that are used to evaluate the degree of exposure that an individual experiences when working in a potentially hazardous setting. Devices of this type are utilized in places where people deal with hazardous waste or radioactive substances, or where there is regular exposure to high levels of sound. The function of the dosimeter is to measure the rate of exposure and make sure that no one is subjected to what is considered an unsafe level.

A noise dosimeter can measure sound levels in any area where people are subjected to loud noise.
A noise dosimeter can measure sound levels in any area where people are subjected to loud noise.

In general, the concept of dosimetry is all about measuring the effects of exposure to various types and levels of all sorts of stimuli. A noise dosimeter is often helpful in manufacturing situations where heavy machinery is used to produce goods. Data retrieved from the device can help management identify the most effective types of ear protection for the employees working near the machines. The devices are also helpful for measuring sound levels in other settings, such as concerts, airport terminals, and any other area where people are subjected to loud noise.

Someone who works with X-rays in a medical setting may wear a small dosimeter at all times.
Someone who works with X-rays in a medical setting may wear a small dosimeter at all times.

A radiation dosimeter is used to identify the presence and intensity of any type of ionizing radiation within a given setting. Some examples of ionizing radiation would include gamma rays, alpha and beta rays, and X-rays that are commonly used in medical settings. Often, people who work in places where there is constant exposure to any of these types of rays wear a small dosimeter at all times. The meter helps them to know the current rate of exposure at any point during their work day, thus making sure the rate of exposure remains in safe limits.

It is also possible to use a dosimeter in a food production setting. Here, the device will measure the level of food irradiation that is taking place in the facility, effectively maintaining acceptable levels of radiation exposure for both the food and the employees who work in the facility. Long-range dosimeters are commonly used in this setting, making it possible to track radiation levels throughout the facility.

Both personal and long range dosimeters are in common usage today. In some settings, such as in a manufacturing plant, the use of both types of the electronic dosimeter is not uncommon. This makes it possible to obtain individual readings from employees as they move about the facility, as well as get an overall reading for the general area. Both forms of data are helpful in keeping workers safe and relatively free from any danger of overexposure.

A dosimeter may be worn in areas where nuclear exposure is a possibility.
A dosimeter may be worn in areas where nuclear exposure is a possibility.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I am familiar with radiation dosimeters, but was unaware of the noise dosimeter. Is there any other type of material that can be measured with this?


If you have a personal dosimeter, especially one that tracks radiation levels in the surrounding area, always make sure you change your batteries on a regular basis. If you don't have enough power to your dosimeter you can get false readings, and frighteningly, sometimes it will set the meter off warning of dangerous levels near by.

I usually switch the batteries on my dosimeter every 6 months just to be safe. Though if you are more concerned with the environment, getting rechargeable batteries is probably a better idea.

Keeping your dosimeter well powered will help prevent a false reading that will end up scaring you half to death.


Having an at home dosimeter that can detect radiation is a good practice, especially if you live within 50 miles or so of a nuclear power plant. As we all know, accidents do happen and often the media and government aren't very forthcoming about information regarding such accidents.

Personal radiation dosimeters can start around $30 for a cheap one and go up into the hundreds of dollars, depending on how strong you want your instrument. Generally you will need to order one online, as most stores wouldn’t carry this kind of equipment.

For myself, having a radiation dosimeter brings peace of mind, especially with all of the concerns with nuclear energy nowadays.


I don't know if there are laws requiring dosimeters in work places where hazardous waste is present. If there aren't such laws, there certainly should be. Personal dosimeters and those that cover the whole facility should be required.

Back in the day, when there wasn't much protection from hazardous waste, so many workers got sick. And I'm sure there are those who are affected today.

I hope that the data received from the dosimeters used in work places, are monitored by a government agency to make sure the level of toxicity is well below the recommended level.

If people are willing to work in potentially dangerous circumstances, they should be property protected as much as possible.


I have never heard that there was such a thing as a personal radiation dosimeter or dosimeters for measurement of noise levels, and irradiation in a food production site.

The idea of collecting data for individual and long range data for the whole facility is a wise idea. I've been particularly concerned about excess noise levels, especially for people in loud bands and those who go to concerts often. There have been so many cases of deafness that result. Just wearing a simple monitor could reduce the risk, if people followed through and lowered the noise level.


@KaBoom - That's probably a good idea. I have a feeling your friend will probably be provided with a dosimeter during her program though.

My boyfriend actually uses a dosimeter at his job as well. He works as an audio technician in loud environments. It's really important for them to monitor how loud it actually is to see if they need earplugs to avoid damaging their hearing.


A friend of mine is going to school for radiology in the fall. I think I am going to suggest to her that she get a pocket dosimeter for when she does her clinical hours. I'm sure the hospital probably monitors the amount of radiation too but it never hurts to double check for yourself!

Post your comments
Forgot password?