However, there is as yet little consistency in NORM regulations among industries and countries.This means that material which is considered radioactive waste in one context may not be considered so in another.Concentrations of actual radionuclides may or may not have been increased; if they have, the term Technologically-Enhanced (TENORM) may be used.Long-lived radioactive elements such as uranium, thorium and potassium and any of their decay products, such as radium and radon are examples of NORM.For most people, cosmogenic NORM barely contributes to dose – perhaps a few tens of microsieverts per year.
Exposure to naturally occurring radiation is responsible for the majority of an average person’s yearly radiation dose (see also Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects paper) and is therefore not usually considered of any special health or safety significance.
These elements have always been present in the Earth's crust and atmosphere, and are concentrated in some places, such as uranium orebodies which may be mined.
The term NORM exists also to distinguish ‘natural radioactive material’ from anthropogenic sources of radioactive material, such as those produced by nuclear power and used in nuclear medicine, where incidentally the radioactive properties of a material maybe what make it useful.
Also, that which may constitute low-level waste in the nuclear industry might go entirely unregulated in another industry (see section below on recycling and NORM).
The acronym TENORM, or technologically enhanced NORM, is often used to refer to those materials where the amount of radioactivity has actually been increased or concentrated as a result of industrial processes.