We used to consider radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer. This has been proved by means of many studies and research projects. However, radon can be used as a tracer too. One example is an investigation carried out in Antarctica to look into how the relationship between pollutants reaching Antarctica and global climate models. What stands out from this study in terms of radon metrology is the device developed by Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Have a look at the published paper to observe the very low values this instrument is able to measure. It can measure mBq m-3. For further information check the article published on phys.org.
Why do we need this project?
On 6th of February 2018, all European member states have had to incorporate into their national legislation the new EURATOM Directive 2013/59. This is a milestone to protect people against the dangers coming from ionising radiation and, in particular, those from radon exposure. Therefore, there are new needs in terms of calibration of radon measuring devices and protocols dealing with radon measurements. Also, as the Directive states the reference level for radon concentration must not exceed 300 Bq.m-3 so the challenge of having traceable and good calibration sources becomes obvious.
Structure and work packages
The project is funded by EMPIR (European Metrology Program for Innovation and Research) and coordinated by BEV/PTP. metroRADON has five main objectives:
- To establish calibration procedures for measuring instruments capable of detecting low radon concentrations
- To look into how thoron concentrations may affect radon measurements
- To revise the existing radon measurement protocols in Europe and enhance such practices all over the continent
- To provide support for the implementation of the new Directive in terms of the definition of RPA (Radon Priority Areas)
- To revise the existing radon calibration facilities in Europe
Apart from the above, there are other objectives in terms of dissemination of results and enhanced communication that make metroRADON a very ambitious project that will be running for the next 3 years.
There are 17 partners involved in the project. Eight of them come from national metrological institutes and the rest are from research centers and universities. The following countries are represented: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland. The European Commission is represented by the JRC (Joint Research Centre). In addition to that, 25 companies compose the Industry Interest Group and among them, Radonova laboratories AB from Sweden are an active participant.
The project will extend from June 2017 until June 2020. Every six months a newsletter will be issued showing progress and upcoming activities. All the information is available on the website www.metroradon.eu
Last February 2018, the 28 EU member states had to implement the EURATOM BSS 59/2013 Directive into their national legislation. An interesting part of this document is the Annex XVIII with a list of 14 items to consider by the governments during the design of the national radon action plans. The item 12 says “Where appropriate, provision of financial support for radon surveys and for remedial measures, in particular for private dwellings with very high radon concentrations”. The Swedish and Spanish governments are an example of this. As of 1st July 2018, homeowners can receive up to 25000 SEK to reduce the radon levels indoors. But before doing this, radon measurements must have been done using the services of an accredited laboratory as it is the case of Radonova Laboratories AB. In Spain, the national building plan includes in the Art. 36 the possibility of providing financial support to reduce radon levels below 300 Bq m-3.
The new EURATOM BSS Directive 59/2013 aims to protect workers from the dangers coming from the exposure to radon gas. However, when we think of work places, usually we do not think in places like government buildings or royal palaces. But these buildings may be at risk of having high radon concentrations too. This is the case of the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden. High radon levels up to 15000 Bq m-3 have been reported on this location. We must remember that the reference level for radon in Sweden is 200 Bq m-3. For further information, you can check the news on the Swedish TV website and the VVS forum
Last week, our specialist radon measurement advisor made a presentation at the UKRA symposium reviewing the existing protocols for radon testing. The main conclusions are: there is a new scenario after the implementation of EURATOM BSS 59/2013 Directive in Europe; most member states have adopted or will adopt a reference level of 300 Bq m-3; the following EU countries have a protocol to describe how to measure radon (WP’s): Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, UK, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden. Norway and Switzerland have similar protocols too. In addition to that, there is a new industrial guideline to measure radon at work places (IRMA 0791-30). A video of this presentation will be available soon at the UKRA website.
This week Radonova Laboratories AB has been a gold sponsor at UKRA symposium. The meeting has been organised by UK Radon association in the city of Bath, UK. More than 60 participants have attended 9 presentations and 6 case study talks. Tony Colgan, from IAEA, made the keynote presentation and the meeting has had speakers from Canada, Ireland, Sweden, UK and USA. In addition, 9 exhibitors have shown their products. Congratulations to UKRA for this fantastic event.
The new Directive EURATOM BSS 2013/59 is being implemented on the EU member states. Therefore, the need for having radon measurements services that provide trustable results is a must. Some EU member states have published lists to include these services. Radonova Laboratories AB belongs to those lists. Two examples to keep in mind: PHE has a validation scheme for laboratories and recently, the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) has published its own list. On this list, Radonova has added its resellers in Spain too.
The challenge of making correct radon measurements
Testing laboratories aim to accomplish high standards in terms of laboratory practice, accuracy of their results and participation in inter-comparison exercises. To achieve that they formerly followed their own internal procedures and designed their own measurement protocols. Given that scenario, how reliable are test results? How can we compare the results obtained by two different laboratories using different testing protocols? The question becomes more relevant when we need to fulfil national legislation and provide results that would be accepted as legal evidence in a court of law.
The best way to provide reliable test values and comparable results among laboratories might be to measure the same sample parameters following the same methods. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. One can perform a test and provide results for the same sample parameter using different approaches. ISO means International Standards Organization. The list of existing standards is very large, and they are applicable to almost any possible measurement. Not only testing, but also calibration has to be made according to common practices. Therefore, the only possible solution is to comply with ISO/IEC 17025 (revised in 2017).
The name of the game – Accreditation according to ISO/IEC 17025
ISO/IEC 17025 contains general requirements to assess the proper competence of testing and calibrating laboratories. It is a full quality system that can be applied to any testing/calibration activity and is particularly relevant to the measurement of radon levels. Accreditation means that the laboratory has met the Management Requirements and Technical Requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 and is deemed technically competent to produce calibration and testing results. This means that we can always verify that our measurements are correct, both accurate and reproducible. This standard is valid for any organization performing testing activities and applies equally to very small laboratories right up to large corporations.
Due to the recent EURATOM BSS Directive, it is necessary to establish a reference level of radon gas concentration in each EU member state. The Directive mandates member states to monitor radon levels in dwellings, work places and public areas. A detailed list of actions is included in the Directive and all member states must set up a national radon action plan. Hence the need to have credible results is essential and the consequences of bad practice may imply serious deviations from the level of accomplishment required by the Directive. Currently, most national authorities demand measurement protocols from the testing service being used and a quality system in place. The accreditation awarded under ISO/IEC 17025 meets this demand ensuring confidence in the accuracy and precision of measurements. It comes with an implicit guarantee that a quality system is in place with systematic procedures supporting each reported value.
EPA radon-Ireland (former Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland) has a long tradition of radon research. The radon program in Ireland is a good example of increasing awareness among general public and good practices. Radon maps are becoming more and more popular. However, we should not forget that the best way to investigate radon concentrations at homes is by means of a radon measurement. The Castleisland radon survey is an example of homes with very elevated radon levels located in a low-risk area in the county of Kerry. In July 2003, “a house located in the vicinity of Castleisland was identified with an average radon concentration seasonally adjusted of 49,000 Bq/m3 (highest level ever measured in a house in the country)”
We use to say that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. There is enough scientific evidence to prove this. However, other forms of cancer may be due to radon too. Dr. Leslie Sutherland from Health Sciences North Research Institute in Canada is leading a project funded by NEO kids foundation to look into “how the exposure of radon is altering human cells of the lung, at the molecular level”. Leukaemia is the most common cause of cancer among children and radon has been associated with certain types of leukaemia. You can find more information about this in a recent article published at The Sudsburystar.