Where does the radon gas come from?

Radon is a colourless and very volatile radioactive gas coming from the nuclear decay of radium, generated by the decay of uranium, naturally present in the soil and rocks, above all of volcanic origin, in water, in tombs and in the materials used in construction. In confined environments, it can accumulate, reaching concentrations such as to become a significant source of health risk.

On the basis of numerous epidemiological studies, radon has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC-WHO) as a Group 1 human carcinogen, representing the second cause of lung cancer immediately after tobacco. For most people, the main exposure to radon occurs at home, in the workplace and in schools, as it spreads from the ground or building materials and reaches the interior of the building through cracks, attacks of walls to the floor, the passages of various electrical, thermal or hydraulic systems.

Radon levels vary according to the time of day and year, so long-term measures are needed to obtain an average of time fluctuations. In confined working environments or with people in the basement and underground (e.g. laboratories, kitchens, taverns, wine bars, meeting rooms, gyms), gas tends to accumulate until it reaches concentrations that can pose a major health risk. The buildings most at risk are those built on soils of volcanic origin, highly permeable or built with materials such as tuff, pozzolane, granite. Italy is a country at risk, especially in historic centers, where it is easy to meet local places directly on the ground without any barrier.

The mapping of radon risk areas is entrusted to ARPA (Regional Environmental Protection Agencies).

Risk evaluation and monitoring

Legislative Decree 81/08 obliges the Employer to assess the risks present in the company, including those arising from exposure to ionizing radiation, especially in cases where workers are employed in premises confined to basements and underground floors.

With the implementation of Directive 2013/59/Euratom comes into force the obligation of a six-monthly measurement of radon gas, included in an annual monitoring activity. If the level of concentration measured is higher than the set limit of 300 βq/mc, the new legislation requires the owner of the building to submit a remediation plan to the municipality, within and no later than sixty days. After completion of the works provided for in the remediation plan, subject to the approval of the competent ATS, the owner of the building will have to make new measurements of radon gas concentration on an annual basis and will declare compliance with the limits provided for by the new law

The measurement of radon levels in the workplace is subject to national regulations that require the control and containment of radon concentration in the following places:

  1. tunnels, underpasses, catacombs, caves, basements and underground rooms;
  2. other working environments located in radon-prone areas;
  3. spas.

Measurements shall be made annually and the annual average concentration in environments 1 and 2 shall be less than 500 Bq/m3.

For residential buildings, which are not covered by national legislation, EEC Recommendation No. 90/143 of 21/2/1990 “Protection of the population against exposure to radon in enclosed spaces” has been taken as the reference. It suggests 400 Bq/m3 as the intervention limit for existing buildings 200 Bq/m3 as the design limit for new buildings.

However, the legislation is evolving and takes into account the progress of scientific knowledge in recent decades; in fact, the Directive 2013/59/EURATOM was recently published. It establishes “basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionizing radiation” unifying all European directives on radiation protection.

One of the main novelties of the Directive is the indication to Member States to adopt reference levels below 300 Bq/m3 for workplaces and dwellings.

By 2018 the member states will have to transpose the indications of the European Directive into national law.

National Radon Plan

The National Radon Plan (PNR), issued in Italy in 2002, consists of a multi-year plan of action to reduce the risk of lung cancer associated with exposure to radon. It is a necessary tool to:

  • plan actions aimed at reducing the risk of radon by optimizing the resources available;
  • plan and implement such actions in a coordinated manner;
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the actions undertaken to quantitatively evaluate their impact and make any corrections to the plan.

National Plan Radon

European Directive 2013/59/Euratom  

With the implementation of this Directive, the obligation to measure radon gas every six months becomes effective as part of annual monitoring activity. If, as a result of the planned measurements, the concentration level is higher than the set limit of 300 βq/mc, the new legislation requires the owner of the building to submit a remediation plan to the municipality concerned within and no later than sixty days.

European Directive 2013/59/Euratom

Legislative Decree 81/08

The Consolidated Law on Safety and Health in the Workplace obliges the employer to assess all risks in the company that may cause accidents or occupational diseases, including those resulting from exposure to ionizing radiation.

Legislative Decree 81/08

Legislative Decree 230/1995 updated 2018

Implementation of Directives 89/618/Euratom, 90/641/Euratom, 96/29/Euratom, 2006/117/Euratom on ionising radiation, 2009/71/Euratom on nuclear safety in nuclear installations and 2011/70/Euratom on the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste arising from civil activities.

Legislative Decree 230/1995 updated 2018

G&A services for Radon gas control

  • Campaign for instrumental detection
  • Geological-environmental assessment
  • Technical assistance for the restoration plan

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