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How many radon detectors are needed to measure a workplace?

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Since the EU’s new radiation protection directive (2013/59/Euratom) came into force in 2018, it is mandatory that employers should be aware of radon levels in the workplace. The new directive has entailed new national laws in member states, which has resulted in an increasing number of workplaces measuring radon levels. However, at the same time, there is a lack of knowledge about how a safe and reliable radon measurement should be conducted.

As the world’s leading radon laboratory, Radonova Laboratories has produced a “how to guide” that can help employers carry out radon measurements correctly.

First get an overview – long term measurement by an accredited laboratory

If you have never measured radon before, you should start first with a preliminary measurement by an accredited laboratory. These measurements should be carried out over a three-month period in order to obtain an annual average of the radon level. Note, this initial measurement must be performed during specific measurement seasons in some countries.

The main cost is not radon detectors – make sure you get it right from the start

When ordering a radon measurement, a common question is how many radon doses are needed. Unfortunately, many countries do not have an official methodology detailing how a measurement at a workplace should be carried out. And if there is, they are usually very difficult to interpret for most employers. Therefore, it can be hard to estimate the number of radon doses required. For this reason, we recommend that employers who measure radon levels use the international methodology recommended by The International Radon Measurement Association (IRMA). Yes, it will result in more measuring points than is suggested by a national organisation, but by following IRMA guidelines you do not risk missing certain areas of the workplace, which can result in time-consuming remeasuring.

The main cost of workplace radon measurement is in the deployment and collection of detectors and the investment in radon consultants if remeasurements are required. In the event of elevated radon levels, the commissioned radon consultant will be in a position to work more efficiently if more points have been measured at the outset. So, by following IRMA guidelines, you will have access to relevant documentation which enables you to conduct measurements which are appropriate for your business.

Rules for calculating the number of radon detectors.

The guidelines in IRMA’s method description for calculating the number of radon doses required are straightforward. By following them, you will also meet national criteria for measuring radon in workplaces.

Here’s how to calculate the number of radon detectors based on IRMA’s guidelines:

• Radon detectors should be placed in rooms where employees spend more than 4 hours per day and in basements where staff stay more than 50 hours a year

• For larger rooms and premises in the ground floor or basement, a radon detector per 150 m² should be placed

• For larger rooms and premises on other floors, a radon detector per 250 m² should be placed

• Use at least two radon detectors per building and floor

• Always measure in rooms where you and your colleagues spend the most time

If you have additional questions about the required number of radon doses and how to conduct a radon measurement, why not contact Radonova’s specialists.

EU Directive 2013/59/Euratom offer better protection towards radon

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The Council of the European Union issued the new Directive EURATOM Basic Safety Standards (BSS) in January 2014. This document aims to offer better protection for people in workplaces and in dwellings. The document introduces radon gas for the first time into the radiological protection system and establishes a reference level of 300 Bq m-3. In addition to this, the occupational exposure regulation for radon in workplaces has 6 mSv y-1 as the limit value. Above this limit, the situation should be managed as a planned exposure situation and below the limit the requirement is to keep exposures under review.

Implementation in February 2018

The deadline to implement the new Directive is February 2018. Not only reference levels must be introduced in the 28 EU countries, but also national radon action plans have to be developed. Traditionally, the situation of radon policies throughout Europe has been very different from country to country. Nordic countries, Ireland and the UK have some of the most advanced radon programmes while southern countries have done much less to tackle the radon issue.

Main articles about radon

There are four articles very relevant in terms of radon exposure: Art. 2, Art. 54, Art. 74 and Art. 103. According to Article 2, the Directive applies in particular to the exposure of workers or members of the public to indoor radon. So, after implementation of the new Directive, all EU member states will have to include all sectors of their population into the system of radiological protection when it comes to monitoring radon exposure. Articles 54 (radon exposure at workplaces) and 74 deal with the reference level in the member states. The reference levels for the annual average activity concentration in air shall not be higher than 300 Bq m−3. Finally Article 103 refers to the establishment of a national action plan addressing long-term risks from radon exposure in dwellings, buildings with public access and workplaces for any source of radon ingress. Annex XVIII on the document sets out the issues of the action plan.

Five countries have already implemented EU Directive 2013/59/Euratom

Article 106 of the Directive clearly states that “Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 6 February 2018”. In order to get an overview of the implementation’s state, the recent International Workshop on the European Atlas of Natural Radiation dedicated a special session to the implementation state. Almost all EU member states made a presentation and it was concluded that only 5 countries have already implemented the Directive at the time of the workshop. Some countries will implement the new legislation on time before the deadline but a significant amount of member states will have problems complying on time.

International Workshop on the European Atlas of Natural Radiation

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The second edition of the International workshop on the European Atlas of Natural Radiation took place in Verbania, Italy from 6th to 9th November 2017. More than 70 participants gathered in this Italian city on the shore of the famous Lake Maggiore. The audience was composed of researchers and authorities with responsibility for radiological protection.  A small number of private companies were among the participants including Radonova Laboratories AB. The European Radon Association was also represented at this meeting.

Description

The workshop included 10 sessions and 60 oral presentations. The sessions dealt with the following topics:

  1. Radon policies
  2. Sources of natural radiation: geochemical, gamma, soil and water
  3. Sources of natural radiation: instruments, buildings
  4. Radon and geology
  5. Radon priority areas: methodology
  6. Radon priority areas: risk, mapping, classification
  7. Relationship between variables: methodology, multivariate
  8. Relationship between variables: multivariate, transport
  9. Indoor radon
  10. Atlas publication

Radon policies, radon as a tracer and radon in water

The workshop opened with Radon policies and during that session speakers from IAEA, EU, WHO, ERA and other on-going research projects, (metroRADON, LIFE-RESPIRE, Ribibui) discussed the current effect of the radon issue on EU legislation and the Basic Safety Standards documents issued by the EU and IAEA. The question of the current state of DCF’s (Dose Conversion Factors) was addressed as well as radon enforcement actions. Speakers representing 11 countries made presentations concerning sources of natural radiation. The first talk of this session showed the current state of the European Radon Map. It followed talks about the use of radon as a tracer, surveys performed in some countries to assess exposure to gamma radiation, fertilisers with radionuclide content and building materials. Also, radon in water was included for the first time in the workshop.

Radon priority areas, geology and eartquakes

The connection between radon and geological activity included the topic of using radon to forecast earthquakes. The new EURATOM BSS requires the need to define radon priority areas in the EU member states. Therefore, a significant number of presentations were devoted to this subject. Germany, Ireland, Austria, Croatia and Spain presented their advances on this important topic that will be very relevant in the upcoming implementation of the EURATOM BSS Directive. The last day included presentations focusing on indoor radon surveys in various countries, especially those in Eastern Europe.

The European Atlas of Natural Radiation

To conclude the workshop, Giorgia Cinelli and Tore Tollefsen (JRC, EU) presented their progress to date with the publication of the European Atlas of Natural Radiation. This is intended to be an encyclopaedia of natural radiation and it is expected to be finalised at the end of 2018.

ROOMS 2017 and National Irish Radon Forum

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ROOMS meetings have been a must on radon mitigation in Europe since 2000. ROOMS is the acronym for Radon Outcomes On Mitigation Solutions. This series of meetings began in 2000 as an initiative for people associated with radon mitigation in Europe, bringing together academic research and practical experience from industry. The first meetings were held in Central Europe and the official language was German. ROOMS has evolved over the years and become a very important event on radon mitigation in Europe. Nowadays, ROOMS meetings are supported by ERA (European Radon Association) and more than 100 people meet every year. It is an international event (English has substituted German as the official language) and this year it was hosted by EPA-Ireland and NUIG (National University of Ireland Galway).

The city of Galway was an excellent choice for the event and Radonova laboratories participated with two representatives. ROOMS was followed by the National Irish Radon Forum organised by EPA-Ireland.

ROOMS started with presentations from universities and research institutions. First, Le Chi Hung (NUIG, Ireland) presented “An investigation of the optimum specification for soil depressurization systems (active and passive) that take account of Irish building practices”, a project carried out in collaboration with the University of Cantabria (Spain). This presentation was followed by a speaker from CSTB (France), Emilie Powaga. Emilie’s presentation focused on the fact that sometimes sumps are not good solutions to reduce radon levels. After CSTB’s presentation, Connie Box (Bjerking AB, Sweden) presented practical examples of mitigations in old buildings in Sweden. Gernot Wurm (AGES, Austria) made a remarkable exposition of the new Austrian standard for radon prevention in new buildings. Per Nilsson’s presentation (Independia International, Sweden) concerned the Scandinavian experience of radon diagnostics and corrective action. He concluded with the message that testing does not save any lives. Ingvild Finne (NRPA, Norway) talked about the effect on radon levels after the introduction of binding requirements for preventive measures in new buildings in Norway. The significance of this action centred on reducing the radon concentration in homes (40 %) and the percentage of houses above the action limit.

The first day of the meeting ended with presentations made by Borja Frutos-Vazquez (Eduardo Torroja Institute for construction sciences, Spain), Mary T. O’Mahony (HSE, Ireland) and Boris Dehandschutter (FANC, Belgium). Boris showed some interesting facts about the radon problem in karstic regions. These regions may have an increased radon risk. Limestone represents a low to medium risk however the radon variations in karst regions are very high. Radon mitigation in these areas is a big issue.

The second day at ROOMS began with presentations made by Fabio Barazza (Federal Office Public Health, Switzerland), Viktoria Schauer (AGES, Austria), Stephanie Hurst (Saxon State Ministry, Germany), Celine de Potter (HEIA FR, Switzerland) and James McGrath (NUIG, Ireland). James presented a project where they are handling 32 Gb of data in order to understand the ventilation and radon concentration in terms of energy efficiency in Irish buildings. After the break, the speakers varied from the private sector (Thomas Streil, SARAD Germany) and public institutions (NRPA, Belarus Science Academy and State office for Nuclear Safety from Czech Republic).

Next year ROOMS will be part of European Radon Week which will take place during the last week of September 2018 in Lugano, at SUPSI.

The main presentations at the National Irish Radon Forum were made by Stephanie Long and David Fenton. Stephanie presented the national radon control strategy showing impressive and outstanding work on radon in Ireland. They have completed a training course for site staff and radon remediators. In addition, the Law society of Ireland has raised three questions concerning radon which must be answered before putting a home on the market.

David Fenton delivered the current state of the EURATOM BSS implementation in Ireland. The key facts are: a reduction in the reference level for workplaces; clearer requirements on carrying out radon measurements and when to remediate; radon measurements must be made by a registered radon measurement service. ‘Register’ means registered with the EPA; 3 month tests will be required. The new radon reference level in Ireland will be 300 Bq m-3.  The full text of the Directive in Ireland can be found here