Radon pollution: health risk linked to radioactive gases in homes

FTo better understand the harmful effects of the radioactive gas radon, scientists from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) have created a national map and recommend measuring radiation at home. The BfS overview shows the average concentration of radon that people are exposed to in their homes, the authority said. But we can only act effectively against radon if we know exactly the radiation exposure at home, said BfS President Inge Paulini.


Overview map: Radon pollution in German apartments
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Image: BfS

The problem is that you can’t see, smell or taste radon, radioprotectors write in a press release. Gas is present in small quantities in every building. Radon occurs naturally in varying quantities in the soil. It can enter buildings through leaks at ground level. High levels of radon pose a serious health risk, as this indoor pollutant is one of the most common causes of lung cancer after smoking.

According to new calculations by the BfS, the average nationwide radon concentration is around 65 becquerels per cubic meter. The new map shows whether the average value in your own city or municipality is higher or lower than this average. Regional fluctuations range from less than 35 becquerels per cubic meter in western Lower Saxony to well over 150 becquerels per cubic meter in many lowland and mountain regions.

An estimated 10.5 million people are exposed to residential radon concentrations above 100 becquerels per cubic meter. Nearly 2 million people are exposed to a radon concentration of 300 becquerels per cubic meter. In some cases, concentrations above 1,000 becquerels per cubic meter are possible, but this is rare.

“Sometimes very low average values ​​do not mean that high radon values ​​cannot occur in your own community,” Paulini said. There is no threshold below which radon is definitively harmless. Paulini encouraged radiation measurements within his own four walls. Measuring devices can be ordered from specialized laboratories and installed yourself. At the end of the measurement period, the devices would be returned to the laboratory, which would then provide information on the results. According to the authorities, the costs are between 30 and 50 euros per measure.

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