Reducing the average concentration of radon in European countries

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Published 17.10.2014, updated 17.10.2014 15:00

Keywords: Radon

“Reducing the average concentration of radon in European countries”: a common
objective shared by National Authorities which met in Montrouge (France) under the
initiative of the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) and the Norwegian Radiation
Protection Authority (NRPA).

Under a joint initiative from ASN and NRPA, 20 European countries, represented by
authorities in charge of Radiation Protection, Health, Labour and Housing and Landscaping
were brought together during a workshop on national radon action plans. The objective of the
workshop, held in ASN’s premises, from September 30th to October 2nd 2014, was to share the
views and experiences concerning national strategies for reducing radon exposure of the
population and associated lung cancer risk.

The radon workshop was supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Heads of European Radiation protection Control Authorities (HERCA) and the European Commission (EC). Authorities from USA (EPA, CRCPD), Canada (CNSC) and Russia (FMBA) and the European Radon Association (ERA) also participated in the workshop.

Following the publication of the new European Basic Safety Standards Directive (the Council
Directive 2013/59/EURATOM ), published in January 2014, Member States of the European
Union have 4 years to incorporate it and to prepare or update their strategy for reducing radon
concentration and the associated national radon action plan.

This radon workshop has offered the opportunity to compare the actions in place or in
preparation in different countries aiming at reducing radon exposure in home and dwellings,
in buildings with public access (i.e. schools) and in workplaces. Preventive and corrective
solutions, associated with incentives and communication to increase the public awareness, as
well as education and training actions for different actors concerned, have been presented and
discussed. The question about the relative place of regulation in the national strategy has been
considered as an important key point.

While national strategies and action plans may be different from one country to another,
depending on national circumstances, in relation particularly with the number of inhabitants
living in radon prone areas, all the strategies are based on the common objective of reducing
the average concentration in radon in each European country. Considering that radon is a
public health problem, national action plan activities need to be managed in coordination with
the different sectors in society.

 

The main findings agreed by the participants at the workshop:

1. Considering the lung cancer risk for smokers and never-smokers linked with radon exposure, a radon action plan should aim to reduce the individual risk by reducing high concentrations of radon and reduce the overall population risk by reducing the average concentration in the country.

2. To be successful, the national strategy must be based on a strong cooperation between the different authorities that work with issues related to radon, at local, regional and national levels. Cooperation with non Governmental Organisations is also essential. Preferably, one authority should lead the implementation and coordination of the action plan.

3. Regulation should be considered in the national action plan, particularly for new buildings because preventive measures are considered as very cost-effective, and also for existing buildings such as schools, kindergartens, workplaces, buildings with public access and rental accommodations.

4. Communication, based on clear messages, targeted on pre-identified groups with customized information, coordinated between the different authorities, is also an important element of the strategy.

5. The implementation of preventive measures in new buildings and remedial actions in existing buildings needs technical guidelines, standards and tools, integrating energy saving and air quality air rules (many are already available), training programs for professionals and education of people living in the buildings.
The final report of the radon workshop, in preparation, will be available on ASN and NRPA websites.