Radon For Governments and Employers

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Take me back to the ICRP's Guide to Radon!

Radon Recommendations for Authorities

A message on public health and radon from the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health in Canada

National authorities have an important role to play in reducing radon levels.

National authorities should:

  • have a reasonable understanding of indoor radon exposures across the country
  • develop a national radon protection strategy

The national radon protection strategy should be straightforward and realistic, and be considered in conjunction with other public health policies, such as energy saving, non-smoking, and indoor air quality. It should address exposures in new and existing buildings, aiming to reduce:

  • the overall exposure of the general population
  • the highest individual exposures

To help guide action, authorities should set a national reference level for indoor radon levels:

  • ICRP recommends setting a national reference level as low as reasonably achievable in the range of 100–300 Bq/m3.
  • WHO guidance is basically the same: a national reference level of 100 Bq/m3 is recommended, and wherever this is not possible, the chosen level should not exceed 300 Bq/m3.

Quotes From Publications

Radon Protection Strategy:Publication 126[1] paragraphs 41-45

…Prevention of radon exposure is most relevant in new buildings. The implementation of preventive measures in new and renovated buildings provides a good partial solution… This also helps to develop awareness amongst professionals involved in the construction sector.

Remediation in existing buildings is also often appropriate in buildings with high radon concentrations. In such situations, there may be a primary source of radon ingress, and radon levels can often be reduced by a factor exceeding 10. … the aim should be to reduce both the overall risk for the population and, for the sake of equity, the highest individual exposures to levels that are as low as reasonably achievable…

…The radon protection strategy should be properly scaled, with other health hazards and priorities identified in the country taken into account. Furthermore, comparison and integration between the radon protection strategy and other public health policies, such as non-smoking and indoor air quality policies, should be sought in order to avoid inconsistencies and achieve better effectiveness.

Considering the ubiquity of radon exposure, and the multiplicity and diversity of situations and decision makers, a straightforward, realistic, and integrated radon protection strategy, addressing most situations with the same approach, is appropriate. It must be supported and implemented on a long-term, potentially permanent basis, and involve all the relevant stakeholders.

National reference Level: Publication 126[1] paragraphs 84, 76, and 86

The first step is to characterise the exposure situation of individuals and the general population in the country, as well as other relevant economic and societal criteria, and the practicability of mitigating or preventing the exposure. … Many factors such as mean radon concentration and radon distribution, number of existing homes with high radon levels, etc. should be taken into consideration.

… The Commission strongly encourages … a national derived reference level that is as low as reasonably achievable in the range of 100–300 Bqm-3…

The value of the national derived reference level for radon exposure should be reviewed periodically to ensure that it remains appropriate.

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Radon Recommendations for Workplaces

Employers have an important role to play in reducing radon levels.

In most workplaces, exposure to radon is treated the same as in other buildings, by taking measurements, comparing radon levels to national reference levels for indoor radon, and taking action if necessary.

In some workplaces, where levels are above the national reference levels for indoor radon, doses to workers should be assessed, and protection should be optimised.

Where, despite all reasonable measures, doses to workers may exceed 10 mSv per year, employers should use protection requirements for occupational exposure.

Requirements for occupational exposure also apply in a few specific workplaces. Which ones is often decided by the national authority. A common example is uranium mines.

The occupational dose limit should apply when the national authorities consider that the radon exposure should be managed as a planned exposure situation.

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Calculating Radon Doses

Radon levels (in Bq/m3) are used directly to control radon levels in homes and most workplaces. However, sometimes it is necessary to calculate the effective dose due to radon exposure for some workplaces.

ICRP develops dose coefficients to simplify the calculation of equivalent dose and effective dose for inhaled or ingested radionuclides.

In simplest terms, calculating the dose from inhaling radon involves multiplying the average radon level (e.g. in Bq/m3) by the time spent, and the right dose coefficient.

Effective dose = radon level × time × dose coefficient

Using the dose coefficient for most circumstances of occupational exposure, breathing air with 50 Bq/m3 of radon (a typical worldwide value in buildings) for one year at work (2000 hours) gives an effective dose of 0.7 mSv. For working indoors doing substantial physical activity, or for exposures in tourist caves, the recommended dose coefficient is higher, so breathing air with 50 Bq/m3 of radon for one year at work gives an effective dose of 1.4 mSv.

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More In-Depth Information

If you are looking for something more extensive look no further below are a collection of related links and articles that can provide more information on this topic!

Expert Summary of ICRP Recommendations on Radon ICRP Radon Summary
Lung Cancer Risk from Radon and Progeny and Statement on Radon ICRP Publication 115
Radiological Protection against Radon Exposure ICRP Publication 126
Occupational Intakes of Radionuclides: Part 3 ICRP Publication 137

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  1. 1.0 1.1 ICRP Publication 126 Radiological Protection against Radon Exposure Ann ICRP 43(3) 2014.