Radon – Hidden danger in the soil

Radon is a radioactive soil gas that can enter buildings from the ground without being noticed. Without sufficient air exchange or suitable protective measures, the gas accumulates and spreads in the building. In the contaminated parts of the building radon is ingested through the air we breathe and it is harmful to our health.

How does radon enter buildings?

  • Cracks in foundation and walls.
  • Penetrations of utility lines
  • Cable ducts, conduits, etc
  • Diffusion through building components.
  • Joints between foundation and basement walls.

Why is radon hazardous?

Over time, radon decays and its radioactive decay products (polonium, bismuth, lead) bind to airborne particles such as particulate matter. People who spend time in contaminated building areas eventually ingest radon when they breathe. Breathing allows the contaminated airborne particles to be deposited in the lungs. The WHO estimates that the proportion of lung cancer attributable to radon ranges from 3 to 14 %, depending on the average radon concentration in the country concerned and the calculation methods.

Radon concentration – Europe

JOINT RESEARCH CENTRERadioactivity Environmental Monitoring

How is the radon hazard assessed?

As a reference value for a high radon concentration in indoor areas, the European Regulation 2013/59/Euratom sets a value of 300 becquerels per cubic meter. This means that no more than 300 radon atoms per second should decay in any cubic meter of the room. In order to assess the concrete danger, the radon concentration in the building should be measured. If the measurement results exceed the reference value, measures should be taken to reduce the radon concentration in the building. Reference values for high radon concentration differ from country to country. A detailed consideration of the respective legal situation is therefore imperative. There is no limit value below which radon would be harmless. In general, the longer and higher the exposure to radon, the greater the risk of lung cancer. Even slightly elevated radon exposure can be shown to increase cancer risk over decades. Therefore, elevated radon levels in all buildings should be reduced as far as this can be achieved with reasonable effort.

For safe protection against radon radiation, sufficient sealing of the building parts in contact with the ground is necessary. Jaeger products from the Waterproofing portfolio are suitable for this purpose, because they are certificated and fulfill the radon-proofing requirements for the sealing of concrete structures.

Doubleflex Fully Bonded Sheet Membrane

The Doubleflex Fully Bonded Sheet Membrane is a fresh concrete composite sheet with a mechanical bond, which is crack-bridging, water pressure-tight and prevents lateral water migration. According to G. Keller the membrane can be described as radon-proof.

Post Applied

The Doublestick Fully bonded Sheet Membrane (FBM-PA) is a self-adhesive exterior wall waterproofing membrane that can be subsequently applied to hardened concrete or precast concrete. This membrane is classified as radon inhibiting and can therefore be used as a radon barrier.

FAQ


Radon occurs in the gaseous part of the earth’s soil all over the world. The distribution of radon depends on the composition of the soil. Typical areas of radon are soils with granite and volcanic rocks as well as black shale. Radon levels vary considerably from country to country* as well as locally and regionally. In the majority of developed countries, environmental authorities have published maps of radon occurrence. These maps provide an indication in which areas there is an elevated concentration of radon in the soil or in buildings.

* McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment

Radon emerges from the soil to the surface and can enter buildings in various ways. Primarily, radon enters buildings with the soil air through leaks (convection) or diffuses through building materials (diffusion). In particular, radon enters buildings through joints, cracks or pipe connections. The gas accumulates in rooms close to the foundation and can then spread further into the building. Intact sealing is therefore essential.

Over time, radon decays and its radioactive decay products (polonium, bismuth, lead) bind to airborne particles such as particulate matter. People who spend time in contaminated building areas eventually ingest radon when they breathe. Breathing allows the contaminated airborne particles to be deposited in the lungs. According to WHO (World Health Organization) 3-14% of fatal lung diseases, such as lung cancer, are due to higher radon concentrations.

Indoor radon concentration are regulated in local Radiation Protection Acts country by country. The laws stipulate various measures to protect the health of people in areas with high radon occurrence. In most countries of the world, there is a national radon manual that describes the measures to minimise indoor radon exposure. Detailed protective measures are presented by Radon Manuals e.g. HANDBOOK ON INDOOR RADON (WHO), Protection of the Public against Exposure Indoors due to Radon and Other Natural Sources of Radiation, Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-32 (IAEA, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY) in which among other solutions impermeable membranes are an effective preventive measure for radon in new buildings.

As a reference value for a high radon concentration in indoor areas, the European Regulation 2013/59/Euratom sets a value of 300 becquerels per cubic meter. This means that no more than 300 radon atoms per second should decay in any cubic meter of the room. In order to assess the concrete danger, the radon concentration in the building should be measured. If the measurement results exceed the reference value, measures should be taken to reduce the radon concentration in the building. Reference values for high radon concentration differ from country to country. A detailed consideration of the respective legal situation is therefore imperative. There is no limit value below which radon would be harmless. In general, the longer and higher the exposure to radon, the greater the risk of lung cancer. Even slightly elevated radon exposure can be shown to increase cancer risk over decades. Therefore, elevated radon levels in all buildings should be reduced as far as this can be achieved with reasonable effort.

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Sources

Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (2019): Radon-Handbuch Deutschland.
http://www.bfs.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/BfS/DE/broschueren/ion/radon-handbuch.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6.

Zugriff: 07.06.2022.

Radon-Themenseite des Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz.
https://www.bfs.de/DE/themen/ion/umwelt/radon/radon_node.html.

Radon Manuals e.g. HANDBOOK ON INDOOR RADON (WHO),
Protection of the Public against Exposure Indoors due to Radon and Other Natural Sources of Radiation, Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-32 (IAEA, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY)

European Regulation 2013/59/Euratom

https://remon.jrc.ec.europa.eu/About/Atlas-of-Natural-Radiation/Digital-Atlas/Indoor-radon-AM/Indoor-radon-concentration