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[en] Protection from radon exposure in workplaces and dwellings, as included in the latest relevant international regulations and recommendations, is based on the new concept of 'reference level' whose meaning is significantly different from that of previous 'action level' concept. In fact, whereas remedial actions had to be considered only for radon concentrations above the action level, actions to optimise radon exposure are requested with priority above reference level but optimisation should be applied also for radon concentrations below reference level. Similar considerations can be applied to the usually called 'Rn-prone' areas, which are here proposed to be regulated as 'priority' areas. The main implication of these new challenging concepts is a substantial increase of avertable lung cancer deaths, as it will be shown using Italian data. Some practical examples of possible policy actions fitting an approach based on these new concepts will also be given, which could be useful for the implementation of the Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom. (authors)
[en] Many international and national regulations on radon in workplaces, including the 2013/59/Euratom Council Directive, are based on the annual average of indoor radon concentration, assuming it is representative of the long-term average. However, a single annual radon concentration measurement does not reflect annual variations (i.e. year-to-year variations) of radon concentration in the same location. These variations, if not negligible, should be considered for an optimized implementation of regulations. Unfortunately, studies on annual variations in workplaces can be difficult and time-consuming and no data have been published on scientific journals on this issue. Therefore, we carried out a study to obtain a first evaluation of short-term annual variations in workplaces of a research institute in Rome (Italy). The radon concentration was measured in 120 rooms (mainly offices and laboratories) located in 23 buildings. In each room, two 1-year long measurements were performed, with an interval between the two measurements of up to 3 years. The results show variability between the two 1-year long measurements higher than the variability observed in a sample of dwellings in the same area. Further studies are required to confirm the results and to extend the study to other types of workplaces. (authors)
[en] Highlights: • Outdoor radon levels can cause departure from lognormal indoor radon distribution. • An analytical method is proposed to evaluate and correct outdoor impact for every radon distribution. • Results of this study can be useful for a correct classification of radon areas. - Abstract: Outdoor radon concentration contributes to indoor radon levels, generally causing a shift from lognormal distribution of measured radon concentration data distribution, and it makes more challenging the estimation of radon distribution parameters on the basis of the lognormal assumption. In particular, lognormal assumption with no correction could lead to a significantly biased estimate of the percentage of dwellings exceeding a certain level, e.g. a reference level (RL), since this is based on biased estimates of geometric mean (GM) and geometric standard deviation (GSD) of radon concentration distribution. Subtracting to each measured data a constant outdoor radon level can usually compensate data distribution departure from log-normality (except for low radon levels), if the appropriate outdoor level value is chosen by means of a lognormal fit of the data. This approach – already (but not always) used in literature – cannot be applied in cases where all the data of radon concentrations are not available (e.g., for a review study). For these cases, this work presents an analytical method to quantitatively evaluate and correct the impact of outdoor on the lognormal distribution parameter estimates and, in particular, on the percentages of dwellings exceeding radon reference levels. The proposed method is applied to a number of possible situations, with different values of outdoor radon level, GM and GSD. The results show that outdoor radon levels generally produce an underestimation of the actual GSD parameter, which increases as the outdoor level increases, and in the worse cases, could lead to an underestimation higher than 50%. Consequently, if the outdoor contribution is not properly taken into account, the percentage of dwellings exceeding a certain RL is almost always underestimated, even by 80%–90% for RL equal to 300 Bq/m3. This could have implications for the classification of areas as regards radon concentration and for the estimation of avertable lung cancers attributable to radon levels higher than some possible RLs.
[en] International recommendations and regulations require developing of National Radon Action Plans (NRAPs) to effectively manage the protection of workers and population from radon exposure. In Italy, a NRAP was published in 2002 and several activities have been carried out in this framework. Information and data regarding these and previous activities have been collected in a National Radon Archive (NRA). Activities carried out by institutionally involved institutes and agencies include several national and regional surveys, involving more than 50 000 indoor environments (dwellings, schools and workplaces), and remedial actions performed in ∼350 buildings, largely in schools. Data collected in the NRA allowed also to estimate that lung cancer deaths attributable to radon exposure in Italy are ∼3400 per year. On-going developments of the Italian NRA finalized to effectively use it as tool for developing, monitoring and updating the NRAP are also described. (authors)
[en] Measurements covering a 1 year period are often used and required by legislation to assess the average radon concentration within a house or a workplace. This kind of long-term measurement—generally carried out with techniques based on nuclear track detectors—can be affected by a reduction in sensitivity due to ageing and fading of latent tracks during the exposure period, thus resulting in an underestimation of the actual average concentration. In order to evaluate in field conditions the ageing and fading effects on annual radon concentration measurements, two different studies in a large sample of rooms in dwellings (162) and in workplaces (432) were conducted using two different techniques (detector and track read-out system): (i) CR-39 plastics readout with a fully automated image analysis system, and (ii) LR 115 films with a spark-counter for track counting. Study design and data analysis aimed to evaluate both the average and the variability of ageing and fading effects in real conditions, and to reduce and separate the contribution of measurement uncertainty to the observed variability. For the CR-39 based technique, the results show that radon concentration measurements over a 12month period are on average about 16% lower than those evaluated with measurements of two consecutive 6 month periods, implying the need for a correction factor to avoid measurement bias (i.e. underestimation) due to ageing and fading effects. The observed variability of ageing and fading effects among the sampled rooms is not negligible (coefficient of variation about 18%), although a considerable fraction is attributable to measurement uncertainty, which is presumably not related to ageing and fading. For the technique based on LR 115 spark counting, ageing and fading do not significantly affect the results of radon concentration measurement. (paper)
[en] Radon concentration in air is subject to significant variations at different time scales, owing to several factors. In general, the shorter the time period considered, the larger the variations in radon concentration, e.g., day-to-day variations are usually higher than month-to-month variations. An average over 12 consecutive months is generally considered the best estimate of the long-term average radon concentration. Due to practical reasons, however, very few data are available on year-to-year variations. Year-to-year variations can have quite a relevant impact on radon policies and on the assessment of health risks from exposures to radon. Therefore, a project was started in 1996 aimed to evaluate year-to-year variations in a sample of dwellings. Systematic radon measurements have been made with LR 115 based radon detectors (closed type) in the living room and one bedroom of a sample of dwellings in Rome (Italy). The analysis of the results of the first five consecutive years of measurements, regarding the 76 dwellings included in the final analysis, showed relatively low year-to-year variations, with a median coefficient of variation of 14% (range 3%-42%), smaller than that observed in studies from other European countries. Therefore, in the analyzed sample, 12-month measurements can be considered a good estimate of the average radon concentration, at least within a 5-year period. This is quite important for radon regulations and policies, e.g. annual measurements could be recommended and repetition of radon measurements could not be necessary within periods of 5 years. Moreover, the impact of the observed year-to-year variations on the lung cancer risk estimated in the Italian epidemiological study is expected to be not high, if variations on periods up to about 30 years can be assumed similar to those observed in this study.
[en] Radon concentration in indoor air has been measured in many countries in a large number of buildings - mainly in houses but also in apartments and workplaces - mostly as a result of the application of radon policies and regulation requirements. However, few systematic analyses are available on radon concentration variations within buildings and between close buildings, especially as regards workplaces; such variations can have a significant impact on indoor radon exposure evaluation, and ultimately on the assessment of the dose from radon received by workers. Therefore, a project was started in 2006 aimed to study the spatial variation of radon concentration among and within about 40 buildings of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS), a research institute of public health located in Rome over a small area of less than 1 km2. Nuclear track detectors (CR-39) were used to measure radon concentration for two consecutive six-month periods, in more than 700 rooms of the surveyed buildings. The paper describes the project in detail and preliminary results regarding 558 rooms in 29 buildings. Coefficient of variation (CV) was calculated as a measure of relative variation of radon concentration between buildings, between floors, and between rooms on the same floor. The CV between buildings resulted quite high (88%), a lower CV (42%) was found for variation between floors, whereas room-to-room CV on the same floor ranged from 25% at first floor level to 48% at basement level. Floor mean ratios, with ground floor as the reference level, were calculated for each building in order to study the correlation between radon concentration and floor levels. Although no clear trend was observed, the average basement/ground floor ratio of radon concentrations resulted about 2.0, whereas the average sixth floor/ground floor ratio of radon concentrations was 0.5. Some discussion on the potential impact of the results of this study on policies and radon regulations are also included in the paper.
[en] Pooled analyses of epidemiological case-control studies on lung cancer and residential radon have shown that radon exposure in dwellings increases lung cancer risk, and that the increase is statistically significant also for prolonged exposures to low-medium level of radon concentration, i.e. levels commonly found in many dwellings. In this paper, a simple method to evaluate the health burden due to the presence of radon in homes (i.e. the number of lung cancer deaths attributable to radon exposure in dwellings) was presented. This method is based on the following parameters: i) the excess relative risk per unit of exposure evaluated in case-control studies; ii) the average radon concentration that can be considered representative of population exposure in dwellings; iii) the total number of lung cancer deaths occurring each year. Moreover, the interaction between radon and cigarette smoking is needed to be taken into account: in fact, although most of the persons are non-smokers, most of the lung cancer deaths attributed to radon are actually due to the multiplicative effect of radon and cigarette smoking. To show this effect, the number of radon related lung cancer deaths estimated to occur among current, former and never smokers was calculated separately for males and females, taking into account the relative risk of lung cancer for the different smoking categories and the prevalence of smoking habits. The methodology described in this work was applied to all the 21 Italian Regions in order to illustrate it. The overall fraction of lung cancer deaths attributable to radon in Italy is about 10%, with values in individual Regions ranging from 4% to 16%. The greater part of the lung cancers attributable to radon is estimated to occur among current smokers for both males and females (72% and 60%, respectively, at national level). This is due to the synergistic effects of radon and cigarette smoking, which should therefore be taken into account in policies aimed to reduce the health burden from radon. - Highlights: ► A simple method to calculate the number of lung cancer deaths attributable to radon was presented. ► The method takes into account the strong interaction between radon and smoking. ► The effect of radon exposure uncertainty was also considered. ► In order to illustrate the method, it was applied to all the 21 Italian Regions. ► The greater part of lung cancers was evaluated to occur among current smokers
[en] The estimation of the indoor radon exposure of the population of a country is generally carried out by the means of surveys designed in order to have sample representativeness as a target (population-based survey). However, the estimates of radon concentration distributions could be affected by biases if sampling was not random or in case of differences between sample and target population characteristics. In this work, we performed a preliminary check of the representativeness of the sample used for the second Italian national survey aimed to evaluate radon concentration distribution in each Province. We found that sampled dwellings are mostly located in the main administrative centres, where average radon concentration is generally lower, as compared with the other towns of the Province. The potential source of bias identified in this work suggests to carefully control the occurrence of a sampling imbalance between 'main' cities and other cities of Province and to take it into account in data analysis. (authors)
[en] Between 2008 and 2011 a survey of radon (222Rn) was performed in schools of several districts of Southern Serbia. Some results have been published previously (Žunić et al., 2010; Carpentieri et al., 2011; Žunić et al., 2013). This article concentrates on the geographical distribution of the measured Rn concentrations. Applying geostatistical methods we generate “school radon maps” of expected concentrations and of estimated probabilities that a concentration threshold is exceeded. The resulting maps show a clearly structured spatial pattern which appears related to the geological background. In particular in areas with vulcanite and granitoid rocks, elevated radon (Rn) concentrations can be expected. The “school radon map” can therefore be considered as proxy to a map of the geogenic radon potential, and allows identification of radon-prone areas, i.e. areas in which higher Rn radon concentrations can be expected for natural reasons. It must be stressed that the “radon hazard”, or potential risk, estimated this way, has to be distinguished from the actual radon risk, which is a function of exposure. This in turn may require (depending on the target variable which is supposed to measure risk) considering demographic and sociological reality, i.e. population density, distribution of building styles and living habits. -- Highlights: • A map of Rn concentrations in primary schools of Southern Serbia. • Application of geostatistical methods. • Correlation with geology found. • Can serve as proxy to identify radon prone areas