New directive calls for enhanced radon protection at home and at work
On 5 December 2013, the Council of the European Union adopted a directive aimed at renewing the European radiation protection legislation. Experts of the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) were involved in the elaboration of this directive. The directive builds on international standards recommended by international panels such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These panels also count BfS experts among their members.
BfS appreciates the adoption of the new directive, which has to be transposed into national legislation within four years. One of the key elements of this directive is the commitment to enhance radon protection at home and at work, an objective also supported by BfS.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas. It is colourless - and harmless, as long as it remains outside. But as soon as the gas accumulates in buildings it starts to be a health problem. When we inhale radon, its radioactive decay products damage our lungs. Lung cancer risk increases, in particular for smokers. As much as ten percent of all houses in Germany are affected by elevated radon concentrations. Around 1,900 cases of radon-induced lung cancer per year could be avoided. The radon concentration in buildings can very often be minimized with very simple means that are available at the next DIY store.
A new animation provided by BfS shows how the gas finds its way into your house. The video clip explains in simple language where radon comes from, how it affects our health and how we can protect ourselves. You can find the video clip on the BfS internet pages. A radon map elaborated by BfS shows those regions in Germany where radon may be a health risk. The map is available online.
For people living in risk areas it might be useful to perform a radon measurement. Although the gas is colourless, the appropriate measuring devices can detect it easily, efficiently and economically. Measurement services providers specialised in radon detection will send you a number of small containers, so-called nuclear track detectors. You are supposed to place those containers on a shelf or cupboard at different locations in your house, such as in the cellar, the living room, the bedroom, the kid's room etc. Send the containers back to your measurement services provider after a period of one year or at least several months and the firm will tell you the result and make a first assessment. Measurements in three to four rooms are generally sufficient in order to gain an overview.